Eric Smith (born January 22, 1980) is an American criminal, incarcerated for the murder, sexual abuse and mutilation of four-year-old Derrick Robie (born October 2, 1988) on August 2, 1993, in Steuben County, New York. Eric, a loner, was tormented by bullies for his low-set ears, thick glasses, red hair and freckles. The murder case made headlines due to the young ages of the killer (13 years) and of the victim (4 years). Eric attracted Derrick to a park, strangled Derrick, dropped a pair of large rocks on the boy’s head, undressed him, and sodomized him with a tree limb. The cause of death was determined to be blunt trauma to the head. Two days after Derrick’s funeral, Eric admitted to Derrick’s killing. The word “enjoy” would come up again and again in the investigation. The first time was when Eric walked into the police command center to see if he could be of help. “[He] enjoyed it.” says investigator John Hibsch. Eric denied seeing Derrick, then, he changed the story. ‘Across the street from the open field, that’s when I saw Derrick.’ He about knocked me off the chair,” recalls John. John says Eric started getting emotional. “He brings his fists up and he goes, ‘You think I killed him, don’t you?'” Eric asked to take a break and his father brought him a glass of Kool Aid. Eric “grabs the red Kool Aid and just throws it on the ground. Derrick had red Kool Aid spilled over him,” says John. “I’m thinking this kid has seen something traumatic, and there’s a block in there.” Watch Derrick Robie Short.
As a toddler, Eric threw temper tantrums and banged his head on the floor. He had speech problems, was held back at school, and was bullied. When he asked for help with his anger, his adoptive father did not give it to him. “He was really upset. He was crunching his fists and told me ‘Dad, I need help,'” said Ted Smith. “I said ‘When I got angry when I was your age, I grabbed a bag in our barn and started beating on it.'” Then, Ted said: “I heard a door shut and he was gone. And he was coming back and I noticed his knuckles and his hands were skinned up and bloody. I asked him what happened, and he said, ‘I hit the tree a couple of times.’ Seemed to be OK.” Watch young killer gives first ever interview
In 1994 Eric was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced a minimum of nine years to life in prison. While in jail, Eric wrote a letter to Derrick’s family: “I know my actions have caused a terrible loss in the Robie family, and I am sorry. I think about what Derrick will never experience: his 16th birthday, Christmas, owning a house, getting married. If I could I would switch places with Derrick.” At the end of this statement, Eric states that he cannot bear the thought of “walls, razor wire, and steel metal bars” for the rest of his life. Watch Life in prison at only 16
“One of the things that has frightened me most in this situation,” says Prosecutor John Tunney. “I don’t doubt for a second that had he not been caught, Eric Smith would have killed again.” A decade behind bars hasn’t changed that: “My fear of Eric Smith is not diminished.”