Eric Smith was born in 1980. At 13, he committed the brutal rape-murder of Derrick Robie, 4, in his hometown of Steuben County, New York. He is incarcerated at Collins Correctional Facility in Eerie County, New York. He has been denied parole 8 times since his incarceration. Each time Smith is eligible for a parole hearing, Robie’s family attend the hearings and relay their suffering to the parole board.
Smith was an unfortunate kid with a troubled childhood. Smith was obsessed with his appearance, but not in a narcissistic way. He was weird-looking and was always concerned about his physical appearance. He often asked other children if they thought his head was too large or if his protruding, low-set ears stuck out. He was uncomfortable with his red hair, freckles and thick glasses. He had a speech impediment and was held back a year in school, more factors that affected the child’s self-esteem. Ted Smith stated his unhappy son frequently said “I don’t know I guess I’m just stupid.”
Bullies often tormented the poor child. His mother stated, “I just told him he had to learn to stick up for himself.” Ironically she took an epilepsy drug, Tridione, which is known to cause birth defects. This drug may have contributed to Eric’s downfall, as the bullying he received for the size of his ears led to what Eric himself described as pent-up rage.
Smith enjoyed spending time with his grandparents, Red and Edie Wilson; Red said “He’d always come in and give us hugs and kisses. He liked being a clown.” However, Smith had been diagnosed by a defense psychiatrist with intermittent explosive disorder, a mental disorder causing individuals to act out violently and unpredictably.
Smith was occasionally abused physically by his distant father, who was unequipped to help Smith deal with his anger: “I had a little hot temper myself so it’s hard to say. There’s a lot of things I say; kick their butts up over their shoulder…. I’d swat them upside the head.” Needless to say his father wasn’t the most qualified counselor for his son.
On August 2, 1993, the friendless boy felt his rage building. He told his father, “I want to hurt someone.” His father ignored his son’s obvious distress and gave him the flippant answer that as a child whenever he himself got angry, he “grabbed a bag in our barn and I’d just start beating on it until I was too tired to do anything else. I heard our door shut. I turned around and he was gone and as I got to the window he was coming back in the door and he was calm. And I looked down and I noticed his hands and his knuckles were kind of skinned up and bloody. And I asked him what happened and he said I hit the tree a couple of times. Seemed to be okay.”
During the time Smith had left the house, he got on his bike and rode to a summer day camp in a local park. He saw 4-year-old Derrick Robie was walking alone to that same camp and a terrible tragedy unfolded. Smith lured him into a nearby wooded area. Smith strangled the little boy, dropped a large rock on the boy’s head, undressed his body, and sodomized him with a tree limb. He raided Robie’s lunch and poured red Kool-Aid over the child’s face. The cause of death was determined to be blunt trauma to the head with contributing asphyxia. The only saving grace for Robie was that he was dead before the hideous sexual assault.
Around 11:00 a.m., Robie’s mother, Doreen, went to the park to pick up her son, only to find that Robie had not arrived. She immediately contacted police. After four hours of investigation, Robie’s body was found.The murder case made national headlines, largely due to the age of the killer and of the victim.
Smith contacted the local police to discover if there had been any leads in the case. He offered some helpful information. Naturally police wanted to talk to him. Smith attended the police station with his father. While there, the investigating officer strategically offered Smith a glass of red Kool-Aid wherepon Smith reacted violently, crying and pushing the glass away from him. He didn’t like it’s “red colour.” Police surmised that the colour reminded him of the Kool-Aid he had poured over Robie’s face.
After some time, Smith admitted to killing Robie. He was arrested and charged with murder. The murder made national headlines. People packed the courtroom every day to ogle the small, 13-year-old boy who had committed the atrocious murder. In spite of his youth, Smith was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 18 years.
Smith claims if he is released he would like to work with “troubled youth” in an effort to guide them away from criminal behaviour, however police continue to believe that Smith is a dangerous person and should never be released. I’m inclined to agree.