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A 41-year-old man has been released from prison after spending 28 years behind bars for the murder of a four-year-old.
Eric Smith was 13 years old when he killed Derrick Robie in August 1993, but he was tried as an adult and sentenced to nine years to life in prison.
He was transferred from a juvenile detention centre to an adult prison after he turned 21 and was denied his first parole hearing almost nine years after the killing took place, but following a series of other unsuccessful hearings he was released on parole in February 2022.
Derrick's parents, Doreen and Dale Robie, spoke out for the first time since his release in a 48 Hours documentary titled Eric Smith: Gambling on a Killer, in which they described their final moments with Derrick and the events that unfolded following his death.
Smith spotted Derrick in 1993 walking alone to a summer camp at a park in New York and lured him into a wooded area before strangling him and beating him to death with rocks. Searchers found the young boy's body hours later, and a friend of Smith's family recalled how the teenager began to exhibit strange behaviour in the days that followed.
Marlene Heskell called Smith's mother and they took the teenager to meet with investigators, where Smith is said to have 'totally enjoyed' speaking about the murder. He later confessed to the crime.
Doreen said she was upset at the notion of having to 'beg' to keep Smith behind bars over the course of his sentencing, but his release eventually came after a parole hearing in October 2021, when he explained he had a fiancée he'd met as she wrote to him in prison and said God was calling on him to do ministry work.
Smith also claimed he was working on getting his college degree in crusade evangelism and looking forward to working in electrical installation or carpentry, CBS News reports.
At the hearing, he said: "I'm not a threat. The 13-year-old kid that took [Derrick's] life… is not the man sitting in front of you talking… if you were to give me the chance, I would not only prove that I'm not a threat. I would definitely be an asset to society."
Smith's release was delayed until he had secured approved housing, but he is now living in Queens, New York.
Now that he is back on the streets, Doreen said she doesn't let Smith 'take space in [her] head' and doesn't focus on 'where he is [or] what he's doing'.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677
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