When will Eric Smith return to society?

Local News

STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) – In October, Eric Smith, nationally known for killing 4-year-old Derrick Robie, was granted parole and was scheduled to be released on Nov. 17; however, his impending release has been stalled. According to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Smith does not yet have an “approved residence” as of Nov. 16.

Smith made national headlines in 1993 when, at 13 years old, he lured 4-year-old Derrick Robie into the woods in Steuben County, strangled him, crushed his head with a rock, and sodomized him with a stick. A jury unanimously found Smith guilty of second-degree murder.

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

At his parole hearing, Smith was expected to present a plan for life following incarceration, including potential employment and a residence.

“Under the uniform conditions of release, it would be impossible for the Division of parole to do their job unless they knew where to find him,” Michael Donlon, esq., attorney at Welch, Donlon and Czarples, PLLC, told 18 News.

According to the DOCCS, “Smith appeared for the 11th time before the Board of Parole on October 5 and subsequently was granted an open date of November 17, 2021.” 

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision confirmed his parole on October 15. He was previously denied parole 10 consecutive times. Due to the nature of Smith’s original sentence, he will be monitored on parole for the rest of his life.

“He’s essentially being released from custody, but he’s still in the custody of the DOCCS system,” Donlon continued.

When Smith is released, there will be no alert to area residents where he is moving to and a municipality cannot refuse Smith from living in their jurisdiction.

“Obviously, everyone understands the concerns and the sensitivity to that, but…there is no municipal provision on banning an individual from entering or exiting,” Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler added.

Many residents in the Southern Tier wonder if he will return to the region or to his hometown of Savona.

A local Facebook group called “Justice for the Robie’s” will be holding a candlelight walk in Savona amid the pending release of Smith.

The group is planning to begin their march at 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the intersection of Rt. 415 and E. Lamoka Ave. The march will end at Robie’s memorial near the Little League baseball fields in Savona.

Those bringing signs are asked not to write Smith’s name and to march peacefully in honor and support of the Robie family.

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