New York Man Who Killed 4-Year-Old Boy When He Was 13 Is Freed
Eric M. Smith was granted parole in October and was released Tuesday.
The New York man who was convicted in a blockbuster 1994 trial for killing a 4-year-old boy when he was 13 was freed from prison, according to New York State’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Eric M. Smith, now 42, was granted parole in October 2021 and walked out of prison a free man on February 1, Associated Press reported.
Smith left the Woodbourne Correctional Facility Tuesday after serving 28 years for the murder of Derrick Robie in 1993, according to New York State’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
In August 1993, authorities said Smith lured Robie into a wooded area near the victim’s home in Savona, New York, strangled the child and beat him to death with a rock, Associated Press reported. Smith would later confess to the murder.
Smith was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to nine years to life in prison.
Smith was granted parole in October after 10 previous requests were denied.
“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,” Smith said, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by Associated Press.
He told the parole board during what would be his 11th and final hearing in October that when he saw Robie walking alone, “the first thought I had was I want to hurt him.”
He said prison has changed him and he feels remorse for what he had done, according to USA Today.
"He could have been a lawyer, he could have been a teacher causing more students to be better men and women as they get older," he said. "All the different things that he could have done professionally in those areas I took from him because of my own selfishness and wanting to lash out instead of speaking to someone who could have given me insight."
It took the parole board two days to deliberate the latest hearing and considered Smith’s age at the time of the attack, the childhood abuse he says he suffered and his clean prison disciplinary record in granting release after more than 28 years and 10 previous denials, Associated Press reported.
The ruling “should in no way be construed as excusing your heinous behavior or mitigating the terrible loss of life you caused,” the board said in October 2021.
Derrick’s parents, Dale and Doreen Robie, opposed Smith’s release each time it was previously considered, according to reports.
The phone number was not in service at the Robie residence when Inside Edition Digital attempted to call for comment.
Following the verdict in 1994, Dale Robie, the victim's father, spoke to The New York Times and said, "the verdict is not going to bring Derrick back," and added "that the system is starting to be responsive to these kids' action."
During his parole hearing last fall, Smith told the board that he is engaged, according to USA Today. The name of his partner has not been disclosed, Yahoo! News said.
Smith also revealed he has been working toward a degree in crusade evangelism and plans further education in the future, USA Today reported.
Smith, who under parole guidelines cannot leave New York State without permission, will live in Queens County, according to Yahoo! News. Smith said he will not return to Savona.
It remains unknown where Smith’s parents are.
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