NYS DOCCS Parole Board explains reasoning behind Eric Smith’s parole

Crime

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (WETM) – The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Board of Parole released the reasoning behind their decision to grant parole to convicted Steuben County child killer Eric Smith.

Smith was granted parole on Oct. 5 after previously being denied parole 10 times by the state.

Smith was sentenced to nine years to life in prison for the 1993 murder of 4-year-old Derrick Robie in Savona.

In the decision released on Wednesday, the board commended Smith for his compelling “growth and development,” his participation in numerous programs, personal achievements, and a strong release plan.

The full board of parole decision can be read below:

This Open Date to Parole supervision, in connection with your actions causing the death of your innocent 4 year old victim (Derrick Robie) should in no way be construed as excusing your heinous behavior or mitigating the terrible loss of life you caused. Nor does this release excuse the pain and suffering you caused your young victim, his family, friends, and an entire community.

The Panel has made this decision after a thorough review of your file, due consideration of all relevant factors and serious deliberation. Factors considered included, but were not limited to, you committing this crime when you were only 13 years of age and came into DOCCS custody in 2001 after serving at (redacted.)

During the interview you conveyed the trauma and abuse you experienced at a young age and how it impacted you. You are presently 41 years old and have been confined for more than 28 years, which is significantly in excess of your minimum sentence (9 years to life). Your growth and development is compelling. Further consideration was given to your clean disciplinary record during your confinement, low scores indicated on your COMPAS risk and needs assessment, completion of numerous programs, personal achievements, and strong release plan. Also, and just as significant, was your sincere expressions of remorse for your actions including a letter to the Apology Bank.

Therefore, the Panel concludes that there is a reasonable probability that you would live and remain at liberty without again violating the law and your release is appropriate.

CONDITIONS (Several redactions):

– I will seek, obtain and maintain employment and/or an academic/vocational program

– I will submit to Substance Abuse Testing, as directed by the Parole Officer

– I will abide by a curfew established by the Parole Officer

– I will participate in anti-aggression/anti-violent counseling, as directed by the Parole Officer

– I will not associate in any way or communicate by any means with (family of Derrick Robie), without the permission of the Parole Officer

– Other: Geographic restrictions, as per Parole Officer

The entire transcript with redactions set by DOCCS can be read on our website.

Smith has not been granted an approved address by DOCCS and if his requested address is not approved he will remain in the custody of DOCCS.

Former Steuben County District Attorney John Tunney, who originally prosecuted Smith, told 18 News that in prior parole hearings Smith indicated wanted to return to his hometown of Savona.

In 2012, the Steuben Courier reported that Smith had changed his mind and said he would not want to return to Savona.

“When making housing decisions, DOCCS seeks to enhance public safety and facilitate the successful return of individuals to the community by considering risk levels, laws, and accessibility to an individual’s support system. Each housing decision is made on a case-by-case basis.”

DOCCS

When asked by members of the parole board why he abused and killed Robie, Smith replied:

“A lot of contributing factors led up to it and he didn’t do anything to deserve it. No one deserves that type of violence. At the time I was holding a lot of anger and unresolved issues with a lot of individuals that I lashed out on (Robie) and I displaced my anger that was unresolved with other individuals on him. It should have never happened. As to why 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. I was constantly being targeted for being weaker, smaller, and I became the bully towards him and he didn’t deserve it.”

Smith said he did not know Robie or his family but that when he saw the four-year-old “the first thought I had was I want to hurt him.”

Smith says he offered to show Robie a shortcut through the woods to a nearby pavilion. While walking Smith said he strangled Robie until he passed out and that he began punching him. He then proceeded to sodomize Robie with a stick before trying to poke him in the eyes and chest.

Smith also placed a paper towel from Robie’s lunch into the boy’s mouth, moved the body onto a rock pile, and left on his bike.

Smith said he didn’t know if Robie was dead but that he started out wanting to only hurt him.

If they were sitting in front of me right now I would say that I’m sorry, and even though that would almost cause them more emotional paiun because sorry it not bringing him back, but other than saying I’m sorry, expressing that to them is the only thing that I can think of to say to them in terms of the fact that I did take (Derrick) away from them… I would try to convey to them that I understand the reasons why I ended up hurting their son and essentially killing him in hopes that hey individually or as a family could understand. I’m not that same person and while that in itself doesn’t take away their anguish and pain, I would hope to convey to them that while I am remorseful I realize the depths to some extent because I can’t really fully understand the depth of how (his) mom feels. I can neer fully understand the depth of how (his) father feels but I can do the best I can to express to them the insight that I’ve gained in hopes that at some point they can get to a point where they feel comfortable to say, for themselves, “I forgive you.” Even though I don’t deserve that.”

Smith said as a child he had trouble in school and “barely skimmed by” after being held back several times due to a learning disability. He said he attended a “Pre-1st grade” between Kindergarten and first grade, and that he didn’t do homework for seven months in fourth grade.

“I had a difficult time retaining the information, understanding, comprehension, and just generally learning the material.”

During the hearing, Smith said he earned his GED in 1999 and that is working towards earning his Associate’s Degree in crusade evangelism. Smith says he is planning to get his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees.

Smith acknowledged that he was bullied in school over his ears, hair, and glasses and that while he was never in a fight he would have his ears flicked, be hit with books, tripped, and spit at.

When asked about his parents Smith said his dad was “emotionally and psychologically abusive,” but that he had a good relationship with his mother.

“I was walking on egg shells any time I was around him,” said Smith of his father. “If I got in trouble I got spanked, if I did other things I had privileges taken away, but he wouldn’t just out of the blue start beating any of us, that wasn’t him.”

When asked where he would move to upon release, Smith said he planned to move in with his mother before finding his own apartment. He then acknowledged that he became engaged in December 2019 to a lawyer who was studying the juvenile justice system.

Upon his release Smith said he hoped to start a job in electrical installation or carpentry fabrication.

The Robie family declined a request for an interview in October following Smith’s parole hearing.

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