WOODBOURNE, N.Y. (WETM) – The transcript of convicted Steuben County child killer Eric Smith’s 11th parole hearing has been released to WETM through a Freedom of Information Law request with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Smith is scheduled to be released from Woodbourne Correctional Facility on Wednesday, Nov. 17 after serving 28 years for the killing of 4-year-old Derrick Robie in 1993 in Savona.
Smith made national headlines when, at 13 years old, he lured Robie into the woods in Steuben County, strangled him, crushed his head with a rock, and sodomized him with a stick. A jury unanimously found Smith guilty of second-degree murder.
Smith has not been granted an approved address by DOCCS and if his requested address is not approved he will remain in the custody of DOCCS. As of 4 p.m. on Wednesday Smith had not received an approved address.
Smith appeared for the 11th time before the Board of Parole on October 5 where he was granted his pending release.
The entire transcript with redactions set by DOCCS can be read below. The details may be found disturbing to some readers and include a detailed account of Robie’s assault and murder.
When asked by members of the parole board why he abused and killed Robie, Smith replied:
“A lot of contributing factors led up to it and he didn’t do anything to deserve it. No one deserves that type of violence. At the time I was holding a lot of anger and unresolved issues with a lot of individuals that I lashed out on (Robie) and I displaced my anger that was unresolved with other individuals on him. It should have never happened. As to why after years of reflection, looking at who I was then and what was going on, I essentially became the bully that I disliked in everything else in my life. I was constantly being targeted for being weaker, smaller, and I became the bully towards him and he didn’t deserve it.”
Smith said he did not know Robie or his family but that when he saw the four-year-old “the first thought I had was I want to hurt him.”
Smith says he offered to show Robie a shortcut through the woods to a nearby pavilion. While walking Smith said he strangled Robie until he passed out and that he began punching him. He then proceeded to sodomize Robie with a stick before trying to poke him in the eyes and chest.
Smith also placed a paper towel from Robie’s lunch into the boy’s mouth, moved the body onto a rock pile, and left on his bike.
Smith said he didn’t know if Robie was dead but that he started out wanting to only hurt him.
If they were sitting in front of me right now I would say that I’m sorry, and even though that would almost cause them more emotional paiun because sorry it not bringing him back, but other than saying I’m sorry, expressing that to them is the only thing that I can think of to say to them in terms of the fact that I did take (Derrick) away from them… I would try to convey to them that I understand the reasons why I ended up hurting their son and essentially killing him in hopes that hey individually or as a family could understand. I’m not that same person and while that in itself doesn’t take away their anguish and pain, I would hope to convey to them that while I am remorseful I realize the depths to some extent because I can’t really fully understand the depth of how (his) mom feels. I can neer fully understand the depth of how (his) father feels but I can do the best I can to express to them the insight that I’ve gained in hopes that at some point they can get to a point where they feel comfortable to say, for themselves, “I forgive you.” Even though I don’t deserve that.”
Smith said as a child he had trouble in school and “barely skimmed by” after being held back several times due to a learning disability. He said he attended a “Pre-1st grade” between Kindergarten and first grade, and that he didn’t do homework for seven months in fourth grade.
“I had a difficult time retaining the information, understanding, comprehension, and just generally learning the material.”
During the hearing, Smith said he earned his GED in 1999 and that is working towards earning his Associate’s Degree in crusade evangelism. Smith says he is planning to get his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees.
Smith acknowledged that he was bullied in school over his ears, hair, and glasses and that while he was never in a fight he would have his ears flicked, be hit with books, tripped, and spit at.
When asked about his parents Smith said his dad was “emotionally and psychologically abusive,” but that he had a good relationship with his mother.
“I was walking on egg shells any time I was around him,” said Smith of his father. “If I got in trouble I got spanked, if I did other things I had privileges taken away, but he wouldn’t just out of the blue start beating any of us, that wasn’t him.”
When asked where he would move to upon release, Smith said he planned to move in with his mother before finding his own apartment. He then acknowledged that he became engaged in December 2019 to a lawyer who was studying the juvenile justice system.
Upon his release Smith said he hoped to start a job in electrical installation or carpentry fabrication.
Former Steuben County District Attorney John Tunney, who originally prosecuted Smith, told 18 News that in prior parole hearings Smith indicated wanted to return to his hometown of Savona.
“Something I’ve thought about for decades. Now all I could think of was Doreen Robie standing in line at the checkout at Kings grocery in Savona and seeing the person behind her in line being Eric Smith,” Tunney told 18 News in October.
In 2012, the Steuben Courier reported that Smith had changed his mind and said he would not want to return to Savona.
“When making housing decisions, DOCCS seeks to enhance public safety and facilitate the successful return of individuals to the community by considering risk levels, laws, and accessibility to an individual’s support system. Each housing decision is made on a case-by-case basis.”DOCCS
Residents are conflicted and told 18 News they were not sure if Smith deserves a second chance.
“He did it wrong. He committed murder, but in the same sense he did wrong. He got granted it [parole], so there’s got to be some type of goodness in him,” a Savona resident said Tuesday.
The Robie family declined a request for an interview in October following Smith’s parole hearing.