ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Eric Smith, convicted of killing a 4-year-old in a case that made national headlines in 1993, has been set free. The state department of corrections says Smith was released Tuesday from the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County. Smith is going to stay with his mother, Tammy Smith, and says he will then get an apartment or a house with his fiancée, somewhere in Queens County.
Eric Smith said during his parole board hearing in October, that Derrick Robie did not deserve the violence visited upon him — with Smith adding he had unresolved anger issues that caused him to lash out. The murder happened near a summer camp in Steuben County in 1993. There, Smith saw 4-year-old Derek Robie walking alone. He lured the boy into the woods, strangling him, then beating him over the head with a rock. He also sexually abused Robie with a stick. Robie’s body was found later that day.
The District Attorney in Steuben County, Brooks Baker, Tuesday said Smith being set free is tough for many to stomach.
“It’s a tough day for any of us in Stueben County law enforcement, particularly those of us who were around when this happened,” says Baker.
The Buffalo News reported during the trial — that Eric’s mother, Tammy Smith, felt her son knew something about Derrick Robie’s murder. Eric suddenly told his mother he committed the crime. Tammy said she lost control, asking him why he did it. Eric just said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know,” crying.
Part of the defense at the trial in 1994 was that Tammy took combined anti-seizure and anti-depressant medicines while she was pregnant with Eric. The drug mixture they said, caused Eric to have uncontrollable fits of rage. The jury rejected that defense, as well as the stories of Eric being abused and bullied as a youngster. Smith was convicted of murder and spent almost 28 years behind bars.
Smith told the parole board last year he hopes one day Derek Robie’s family can forgive him. Baker says this release will likely only add pain for the family and the local community. “The only thing that I can think of is the concern for the Robie family. Obviously, they lost a 4-year-old child so long ago. With the limited contact I had with them, they’re great people, and this is just one more re-victimization,” says Baker.
Baker says he’s at least at ease Smith will be residing in Queens County and not Steuben. “The prospect of him being here was very, very disturbing. So there is — I hope — a sigh of relief that he will not be here, even though he is going to be out of jail which is difficult for all of us.”
Smith will be on parole. Under the conditions, he cannot leave New York without permission and has agreed to constant monitoring and check-ins with his parole officer. Smith’s parole had been denied 10 consecutive times until it was granted in October. The delay in his release was due to not having an approved address.