The parents of a 4-year-old boy brutally killed by a 13-year-old nearly 30 years ago say that they can finally move on with their lives after their son’s murderer has finally been paroled.
Doreen and Derrick Robie say that killer Eric Smith’s freedom also means their own. Now, they will no longer have to be reminded of their son’s brutal death at parole hearings every two years.
‘He’s been released, but in a way, so have we,’ she said in an interview with the CBS show 48 Hours. ‘No more parole. We can get on with our lives. Now the true healing can begin.’
At his 11th parole hearing last October, Smith, 41, convinced the New York state Board of Parole that he no longer posed a danger to society.
He is now engaged to a woman that he corresponded with behind bars and hopes to pursue the ‘American Dream.
‘I understand why after so many years they’ve decided to give him a chance,’ Doreen Robie told the true crime show. ‘And that’s fine for him and his family.’
Now 41, Smith was released on parole in February
Smith has said more than a decade ago that he wants to ‘get married and raise a family.’
But Smith’s chance at a normal life ended in August 1993 when he lured 4-year-old Derrick into the woods of Savona, New York, a small town about 100 miles southeast of Buffalo, and viciously bludgeoned him with rocks, strangled him and sexually abused his body with a stick.
Smith said that he’d been bulled by other kids for his bright red hair and he took his anger out on Derrick.
Smith was convicted of second-degree murder in 1994 and sentenced to nine years to life in prison.
‘You hear nine years to life,’ said the murdered boy’s father. ‘And I think back then everyone was focusing on the ‘life’ side of it’
Derrick’s parents, Dale and Doreen Robie, opposed Smith’s release each time he came before the parole board
Smith said that when he saw the popular, fair-haired Derrick on the street, he got the urge to kill him. Speaking in a jailhouse interview in 2009, Smith said his anger was not directed at Derrick, but rather at his own bullies
Eric Smith was 13 years old in 1993 (left) when he lured a 4-year-old into the woods in western New York and brutally killed him.
Derrick’ brutalized body was found in a wooded area, just a short distance from his home in Savona on August 2, 1993
Derricks’ parents opposed Smith’s release each time he came before the parole board, which was every two years after he turned 21.
‘A lot of people don’t know the full gamut of what we went through – and they shouldn’t’ Doreen Robie said.
Although Smith was eligible to be freed as early as last November, his release was delayed until February because it took months to find housing.
Smith now lives in Queens, New York.
When the Robie’s found out, they were overcome with emotion.
‘We found each other on the porch and gave each other a hug,’ she said.
‘We will never forget our boy, because he was a wonderful child.’
Derrick Robie was walking to summer camp in Savona, New York, when he was strangled and beaten to death with rocks
Smith was arrested a few days later and confessed to the killing
Every August 2, no matter where they are, the couple tries to do something fun.
‘White ice cream with sprinkles,’ Derrick Robie Sr. said. ‘That’s what Derrick called vanilla ice cream’
He trailed off in tears.
‘Where ever we are, we have to go find ice cream,’ Doreen Robie said.
Young Derrick was on his way to play T-ball, his favorite game, when his life was cut short by Smith, who was only 13 himself at the time.
Now, in Savona there’s a ballfield dedicated to their son’s memory and beside it sits a statue of Derrick in his batter’s stance.
‘Dedicated to be a gentle reminder of what childhood is meant to be,’ the plaque on the base of the statue says.
‘I love that he’s the only person in town that has a statue,’ his mother says. ‘I love that he was called ‘The mayor of Savona’ because he was pretty well known.’
Smith apologized to the Robies and said that if he could switch places with Derrick ‘and take the grave for him to live, I’d do it in a second…’
The apology has not been much comfort for the couple though, they still fear him but they’re trying to move on.
‘I don’t let him take space in my head,’ she said. ‘I do not focus on where he is, what he’s doing. … ’cause I don’t care. As long as he’s not near friends and family.’