Eric M. Smith turned thirty-six years old in January. Next month, he'll attend his eighth parole hearing. In 1994, at the age of 13, Smith was convicted of second degree murder in the death of 4-year old Derrick Robie of Savona.
On August 2, 1993, Smith was riding his bike to a summer day camp in a local park and 4-year-old Derrick Robie was walking alone to that same camp. Smith saw Robie and lured him into a nearby wooded area. There, Smith strangled him, dropped a 26-pound rock on the boy’s head, undressed his body, and sodomized him with a tree limb.
Smith has been denied parole seven times since 2002, most recently in April 2014. After the failed 2012 hearing, the parole board cited a concern for public safety in its decision, and Robie's parents opposed his release. At that hearing, he told a parole board he would not return to Savona if released, and instead would go to a shelter or halfway house.
Two years ago, local state lawmakers argued that parole hearings every two years were harmful to the parents. They demanded change...change that never happened.
In a joint statement last year, Senator Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano said, “We need to
keep making the case that it’s not fair to Dale and Dori Robie and all of the other
families who have to relive their nightmare every two years.
Dale and Dori Robie (in photo) said, "We’re trying
to keep attention focused on the ongoing efforts to see it become state law in
Derrick's memory, and the memories of all victims, so that other families like
ours, whose lives have been forever changed by a violent criminal, do not have
to relive their ordeal every two years."
While in jail, Smith wrote an apology letter to Robie's family; he read it on public television: "I know my actions have caused a terrible loss in the Robie family, and for that, I am truly sorry. I've tried to think as much as possible about what Derrick will never experience: his 16th birthday, Christmas, anytime, owning his own house, graduating, going to college, getting married, his first child. If I could go back in time, I would switch places with Derrick and endure all the pain I've caused him. If it meant that he would go on living, I'd switch places, but I can't." At the end of this statement, Smith states that he cannot bear the thought of "walls, razor wire, and steel metal bars" for the rest of his life. He has also apologized to Derrick Robie in interviews.
Smith is serving a sentence of nine years to life in prison. He is currently housed at the Collins Correctional Facility in Erie County.