Eric Smith, Steuben County child killer, granted parole; ‘inevitable’ says former DA

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STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) – Eric Smith, nationally known for killing a 4-year-old in 1993, has been granted parole, effective next month, after spending 27 years in prison.

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.” 

He was scheduled for a parole interview last week, and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision confirmed his parole on October 15. He was previously denied parole 10 consecutive times.

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.

The former Steuben County District Attorney, John Tunney, who prosecuted Smith at the time, said he’s thought about the possibility of Smith re-entering society for decades, and the first people he thought of: the family of Derrick Robie.

According to Tunney, when he was originally up for parole, Smith said he would want to return to his hometown of Savona.

“All I could think of was Dori Robie standing in line at the checkout at King’s Grocery in Savona and seeing the person behind her in line being Eric Smith,” Tunney said. “How could that possibly happen? That doesn’t work… I just don’t know how a parent survives with this sort of thing and deals with it.”

In 2012, the Steuben Courier reported that Smith had changed his mind and said he would not want to return to Savona. 18 News has submitted a request of his most recent parole interview transcript but has yet to get a response.

He added that it seemed inevitable that Smith would get parole eventually since his sentence was for nine years to life, and it’s now been almost 28 years. “I’m simply not surprised that it took a while, but I’m also not surprised that it finally happened.”

But, Tunney is still worried. When asked whether he thought Smith had been rehabilitated in some way to be able to re-enter society, he responded “I have no reason to believe that’s the case. Our prison system doesn’t have a particularly good record of rehabilitation.”

However, he said hopefully “today’s version of Eric Smith” has learned that he needs to be on his best behavior if he doesn’t want to go back to that environment.

“I no longer have a lot of, sort of optimism that having spent nearly 30 years in prison is a productive recipe for good behavior,” he said. “But I’m hoping he proves the exception… I frankly hope Eric Smith does well. Nobody, nobody is better off if he fails. in some way.

The Robie family declined a request for an interview.

For clarification, Tunney explained that parole basically means Smith will be supervised not in a day-to-day manner, but by periodic check-ins, including talking with employers, neighbors, family, or law enforcement.

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