Eric Smith Murders Derrick Robie

Eric Smith was a thirteen year old teen killer from New York State when he would murder four year old Derrick Robie

According to court documents Eric Smith would be going to a day camp when he saw four year old Derrick Robie walking alone. Smith would lure the little boy into the woods where he would be tortured and beaten to death with a rock. Derrick Robie would be reported missing and his body would be found hours later

Eric Smith would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to nine years to life in prison.

After serving twenty seven years in prison Eric Smith would be paroled in February 2022

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eric smith Derrick Robie

Eric Smith Case

One year ago today was the end of a saga nearly 30 years in the making: convicted Steuben County killer Eric Smith was released from prison after 27 years.

Early in the morning on February 1, 2022, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced that Eric Smith was released from the Woodburne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County. Smith was released to live downstate in Queens, N.Y

Smith was granted parole in October 2021 after being denied 10 consecutive times. Smith said he said he would likely stay with his mother until he can find his own place. His mother, Tammy Smith’s, address is unknown.

He then explained plans to either get an apartment or put a down payment on a house of his own and hopefully move in with his fiancee.

His release in Feb. 2022 came almost three months after his originally-planned release date in Nov. 2021. However, his release was delayed for months because Smith didn’t have an approved address.

Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker, who assisted Tunney in Smith’s case 28 years ago, told 18 News “It was one of the most shocking and tragic collections of events I’ve ever been had the misfortune to be around. So the idea he’s being released is still difficult for most of us to stomach, but I guess that unfortunately that ship is sailed and that’s a decision made by state parole and not by anybody else so we can’t influence at this stage.”

Smith made national headlines in 1993 when, at age 13, he lured 4-year-old Derrick Robie into the woods in Savona, beat him in the head with a rock, and sodomized him with a stick. He confessed to the murder a week later and was convicted to nine years to life in prison.

Eric Smith Case

According to evidence adduced at the Huntley hearing and at trial, at 9:12 A.M. on Monday, August 2, 1993, four-year-old Derrick Robie, carrying his lunch in a canvas bag, left his home to walk to a nearby park to participate in a recreation program. Several minutes later, on McCoy Street near the park, Eric Smith, who was riding his bicycle, encountered Derrick, whom he knew from the recreation program.

According to the oral and written statements defendant gave to police one week later, defendant called out, “Hey, kid,” prompting Derrick to turn around, at which point defendant “knew I wanted to take him someplace and hurt him.” Eric Smith asked Derrick if he wanted to go to the recreation program by way of a “short cut,” but Derrick said that he wasn’t “supposed to.” Defendant repeatedly assured Derrick, “It’s okay, I’m right here,” then got off his bicycle and led Derrick through a wooded vacant lot adjacent to the park.

As the boys reached a secluded area behind an overgrown hedgerow, defendant put down his bicycle, let Derrick go ahead of him and then reached around and choked Derrick’s neck with his right arm. Derrick dropped his lunch bag and kicked his feet and swung his fists in an attempt to get away. Defendant started to release Derrick in order to readjust his grip and choke Derrick with his hands, but because Derrick began to “gasp some air,” defendant “squeezed harder.” After about 30 seconds, Derrick no longer made any noise, so defendant “figured he was dead” and laid him on the ground. When Derrick again began “gasping for air”, defendant dumped Derrick’s lunch on the ground, picked up a paper napkin, and stuffed it in Derrick’s mouth.

Eric Smith then attempted to stuff a plastic sandwich bag in Derrick’s mouth, but pulled it out when Derrick bit defendant’s finger. Defendant picked up a small rock, kneeled over Derrick, and struck him with it three times on the right side of the head; picked up a large rock and, with both hands, threw it three times on Derrick’s head; then picked up another large rock and threw it twice onto Derrick’s chest and once onto his midsection. At that point, defendant took the drink from Derrick’s lunch and poured it on Derrick’s face. He then pulled down Derrick’s pants, took a stick, flipped over Derrick’s body, and “put the stick up his butt.” Defendant flipped over the body again, dragged it several feet to a rockpile, and left the area on his bike. After about five minutes, defendant returned to the scene to check the body. As defendant subsequently related to police, he wanted to “double, triple check to make sure” that the victim was dead: “I was worried if he wasn’t there he might say something however I figured if he’s dead, and I believed he was, I won’t have to worry about anything.” Eric Smith then left the scene.

Derrick’s mother, concerned when Derrick did not return home from the park, reported him missing at approximately 11:00 A.M. Derrick’s body was found at approximately 3:45 P.M. The State Police immediately took charge of the investigation and catalogued the physical evidence, details of which were not released to the public. An autopsy revealed severe head injuries, including multiple skull fractures and cerebral swelling and contusions, extensive tearing and bleeding of tissues in the chest, a perforation of the intestinal wall, and pinpoint hemorrhages on the neck, face, and eyes, indicative of asphyxiation. The cause of death was determined to be blunt trauma to the head with contributing asphyxia. Over the course of the next several days, police interviewed approximately 500 witnesses, many more than once. Police spoke with defendant on the morning of Thursday, August 5, when defendant and his mother walked into the police command post to offer information that defendant’s mother thought might be helpful in the investigation. Defendant revealed that he had been in and out of the park three or four times that morning, but stated that he had not seen Derrick.

At about 5:00 P.M. on August 5, investigators went to the home of Eric Smith and interviewed him, with the permission of his parents, to clarify some minor discrepancies between defendant’s statements and those of other witnesses. During that interview, which lasted 45 to 50 minutes, defendant revealed for the first time that, while riding on McCoy Street that morning, he had seen Derrick walking on the opposite side of the street, near the murder scene. Eric Smith described Derrick’s clothing and lunch bag in close detail. The police had defendant perform an impromptu vision examination, but defendant couldn’t see well because he didn’t have his glasses, which had broken several weeks earlier. When the officers became skeptical that defendant could have seen such details from across the street, defendant became emotional and spontaneously asked, “You think I killed him, don’t you?”, to which police responded, “No.” When police asked defendant if he had seen anything else, defendant said, “I’m not the type of person that would kill, hurt, or sexually molest anyone.” The interview ended when defendant’s great-grandfather, a retired Sheriff’s deputy, asked that the officers leave.

Approximately an hour later, at 7:00 P.M., State Police investigators, accompanied by District Attorney Tunney, returned to defendant’s home to ask if they could resume the interview. The officers assured defendant’s great-grandfather, who had assumed the role of defendant’s protector, that they were not accusing defendant, but merely trying to acquire accurate details from him, since he was the last known person to have seen Derrick alive. Ultimately, police persuaded the family to allow defendant to accompany them to McCoy Street, so that Eric Smith could reenact his movements and observations on the day of the murder. During the reenactment, defendant pointed out where he had seen Derrick, but could make out only the outline of an investigator playing the role of Derrick. Because it was getting dark, the parties agreed to return the next day to reenact the scene.

The next morning, Eric Smith and his great-grandfather accompanied the police to McCoy Street to reenact the scene, and the reenactment was videotaped. Again, there were problems with defendant’s account because defendant described others’ movements inconsistently and was unable to see or describe an object carried by the officer portraying Derrick. The officers questioned whether defendant really had seen Derrick, and said they needed to know before wasting time pursuing a false lead. Investigators subsequently interviewed defendant for two hours at the command post in the presence of defendant’s great-grandfather. During the interview, defendant equivocated concerning whether he had seen Derrick. At the end of the interview, police still were not sure that defendant had seen Derrick.

Police had no contact with Eric Smith or his family on August 7. On Sunday afternoon, August 8, defendant told his mother, grandfather, and great-grandfather that he had killed Derrick. Through an intermediary, defendant’s great-grandfather arranged a meeting with District Attorney Tunney at the Steuben County Office Building in Bath. Defendant’s great-grandfather sought to handle the matter as “peaceful and as quiet as we can,” and specifically asked to avoid the involvement of the State Police, the prospect of public arrest, and the possibility of a Grand Jury proceeding or other preliminaries. The District Attorney persuaded defendant’s great-grandfather that the State Police, in the person of BCI Captain DeLap, had to take defendant’s statement. The District Attorney called for DeLap to come to the District Attorney’s office, and defendant’s great-grandfather called his family to have defendant brought there. Defendant was taken to the office by his mother, stepfather, and grandfather shortly after 10:00 P.M. The family decided that only defendant’s stepfather and great-grandfather would stay with defendant while he was being questioned by DeLap. The District Attorney left the room before the interview began because, as he earlier had explained to defendant’s great-grandfather, he would have to prosecute the case and did not want to witness the statement. By all accounts, the authorities never promised that defendant would not be prosecuted criminally, but merely acknowledged to defendant’s family that Eric Smith needed psychiatric help and would be evaluated within a few days.

At the outset of the interview, DeLap sat directly across from Eric Smith and explained the ground rules of the questioning, specifically that defendant must speak the truth and that his family would not be permitted to interrupt. DeLap at one point told defendant, “You have to answer for this.” DeLap gave defendant his Miranda warnings, explaining them in detail: “You have the right to remain silent * * * [T]hat means you don’t have to talk to me * * * Furthermore, that is only the first part of that. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say, good or bad, can be used in a court of law or used anywhere against you. If it goes against you, so be it * * * That means you don’t have to talk to me and if you do and it goes against you, so be it, but it will be the truth so it’s not bad * * * [A]lso you have the right to an attorney * * * You have a right to a lawyer. That means you have the right to a lawyer right now. We can stop right now and you can go buy a lawyer, have yourself a lawyer. If you can’t afford one or your mom and dad can’t afford one because they don’t work or [are] out of work, whatever the case may be, one will be appointed to represent you before any questions.”

Eric Smith asked only one question: what an attorney was. DeLap told him that an attorney was a lawyer. At each step of the warnings, DeLap asked defendant, his stepfather, and great-grandfather if they understood the warnings. In response to each query, defendant nodded or said he understood. Similarly, defendant’s stepfather and great-grandfather indicated their understanding of defendant’s rights and their agreement that defendant would waive them and agree to talk to DeLap.

Over the next three hours, Eric Smith gave his account of the murder, the details of which dovetailed with the physical evidence found at the scene. At no time did either defendant or his family ask to stop the interview or request a lawyer. Ultimately, defendant’s confession was typed as DeLap dictated from his interview notes. Defendant suggested a minor change to the statement, initialed each page, and then signed the statement, as did each of the adults present.

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