Savona, New York
August 2nd, 1993-
It would be really easy to feel pity for Eric Smith if he hadn’t done something so utterly incomprehensible. The kid was a bully’s wet dream- he had birth defects from an anti-seizure medication which his mother was prescribed while pregnant; this caused his low set ears to stick out, and he suffered from developmental delays such as problems with speech. Pair that with his large Coke bottle glasses, freckles, and bright red hair – well, you know, kids are cruel. Of course he was bullied, that has never been a question. But does bullying excuse what he did to another child?
In 1993 Eric was 13 years old. He’d already been diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, meaning he could fly off the handle and become violent at the drop of a hat. During this summer Eric had been attending a rec program; it just so happened that a 4 year old boy named Derrick Robie was also attending that same program. Though Derrick’s mama always walked with him to the rec center, on this day she was really busy; Derrick prided himself on being a big boy, and begged to walk by himself. The community center was only a block away, and there were no major roads to cross; Derrick’s mama never dreamed anything bad could happen. Keep in mind that things were different back then; most of us modern parents wouldn’t dream of allowing our children to go anywhere by themselves today (my 8 year old doesn’t play in the yard without me!) but many parents back then just didn’t think anything of it. So Mama packed little Derrick a lunch of bananas and cherry red Kool-Aid, walked out to the driveway, kissed her baby goodbye and she watched as he walked away. Derrick had only made it 100 yards when he met his killer.
Eric had been riding his bike to the program when he spotted Derrick walking alone. The older boy lured the younger child off the road and into the wooded area on the side of the road; what transpired there is horrendous.
Derrick was first manually strangled, and beaten to death with a large and a small rock. The contents of Derrick’s lunch were smeared into the victim’s open wounds, then Eric sodomized the small child with a stick. When he was done with his victim, Eric removed the boy’s shoes and posed the body.
Around 11 am it was realized that Derrick was missing, and police went searching for him; a few hours later little Derrick’s mutilated body was discovered. Of course investigators never dreamed they were searching for a child, everyone believed they were searching for a grown man, an experienced pedophile! And who knows, maybe Eric would’ve gotten away with it all, had he not brought attention to himself.
4 days after the murder Eric walked himself into the police station, and said he wanted to know if he could help with Derrick’s case. At first investigators assumed they were speaking to a caring, helpful kid; then they believed him to be a witness. Eric soon admitted to seeing Derrick while riding his bike on the way to the center; police reenacted what Eric claimed had happened that day, with the teen riding his bike to the center. Police realized that Eric could not have known many of the details he recalled by simply riding by; they also noticed that Eric very much enjoyed the reenactment. A couple of days later the teenager would confess to murder.
Eric’s reasons for killing were not that he was abused at home, though his sister does believe that their step father was sexually abusive, Eric denies any abuse of that nature. He says that Derrick lost his life because Eric wanted to be the one who hurt someone for a change – to be the bully instead of the bullied.
Eric was sentenced to 9 years to life, which was the max sentence at the time. Today the 39 year old is still in prison, begging to be released. Eric is very intelligent, educated, claims to be remorseful, and says he wants out so he can help other troubled children. Many professionals involved in the case believe that Eric was a “budding serial killer” and that if given the opportunity, he would murder again. But Eric truly enjoyed killing Derrick, enjoyed everything about it; given the brutality of the crime, and the fact that he even went so far as to sexually assault and pose the body, maybe the world is safer if he stays incarcerated indefinitely.
Today the scene of the crime, the field, has been razed and a baseball field now stands in it’s place; this was done in rememberable of Derrick, he had loved baseball. Derrick’s mother has faced harsh criticism for allowing her son to walk alone that day. Sure, it’s probably not something you or I would allow, but insulting this mother will not change anything. You know she’s beats herself up over that decision more than any of us ever could. Why add to her anguish? As for Eric, he comes up for parole every couple years, in January of next year he will have another shot. Whether we like it or not there’s a good chance that at some point he will be freed, walking among us.
What do you think? Should he receive a second chance?
Update: Eric has recently been turned down for parole, this is the 10th time. One of these days this killer will likely be freed, but not today.