On August 2, 1993, when Smith was thirteen years old, he was riding his bike home from summer camp in a local park day camp after being told to leave due to “bad behavior” and 4-year-old Derrick Robie was walking alone to that same camp. Smith saw Robie and lured him into a nearby wooded area. There, Smith strangled him, dropped a large rock on the boy's head, undressed his body, and sodomized him with a tree limb. The cause of death was determined to be blunt trauma to the head with contributing asphyxia. Around 11:00 a.m., Robie's mother, Doreen, went to the park to pick up her son, only to find that Robie had not arrived. After four hours of investigation, Robie's body was found. The murder case made national headlines, largely due to the age of the killer (13) and of the victim (4). On August 8, 1993, Eric Smith confessed to his mother that he murdered Derrick. The Smith family informed law enforcement later that night. In his 2014 parole hearing, Smith said that he had been bullied by older children at school, and also by his father and older sister. He confessed that he took his rage out on Robie, so he killed him. Smith said that he sodomized Robie with a stick in order to ensure his death.
Conviction and incarceration
On August 16, 1994, Smith was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to the maximum term then available for juvenile murderers: a minimum of nine years to life in prison. While in jail, Smith wrote an apology letter to Robie's family; he read it on public television: "I know my actions have caused a terrible loss in the Robie family, and for that, I am truly sorry. I've tried to think as much as possible about what Derrick will never experience: his 16th birthday, Christmas, anytime, owning his own house, graduating, going to college, getting married, his first child. If I could go back in time, I would switch places with Derrick and endure all the pain I've caused him. If it meant that he would go on living, I'd switch places, but I can't." At the end of this statement, Smith states that he cannot bear the thought of "walls, razor wire, and steel metal bars" for the rest of his life. He has also apologized to Derrick Robie in interviews.
Smith has been denied parole ten times since 2002, most recently in January 2020. He will next be eligible for parole in October 2021. After the failed 2012 hearing, the parole board cited a concern for public safety in its decision, and Robie's parents opposed his release. At that hearing, he told a parole board he would not return to Savona if released and instead would go to a shelter or halfway house.
Smith was held in a juvenile facility for three years and was then transferred to an open prison for young adults. In 2001, he was transferred to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, a maximum-security prison. As of May 3, 2016, the NYS Department of Corrections website shows him incarcerated at Collins Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison for male inmates in Erie County, New York. On April 26, 2019, he was listed as incarcerated at Gowanda Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison that is co-located with Collins Correctional Facility. On November 30, 2019, he was listed as incarcerated at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County Creative Minds video.