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  • Writer's pictureKathryn McMaster

Kids who Kill: Eric Smith

In 1993, with a population of 974, the village boasts maple-lined streets with one blinking red traffic light, two gas stations, a hardware store, a grocery store, and a diner. Five minutes of travel in any direction and you are out in the country.

Over the years, Savona has not been without its share of tragedies. There is a murder-suicide, two teenagers killed by a drunk driver, a child tragically suffocates in a snow bank, and a tractor accident takes the life of a promising high school senior.

Nothing, however, can prepare them for the next tragedy that rocks their community on the morning of August 2, 1993. This tragedy will change their village forever.

A young boy murdered. A killer is at large. Fear infiltrates and seeps through the village, into the very sinew and bones of its inhabitants. Parents keep a closer eye on their children, buying them new whistles to hang around their necks, insisting they go out in groups if they cannot keep them off the streets. Padlocks fly off shop shelves and people buy additional hardware for increased security. They speak in hushed whispers as to who it could be.

Thoughts veer to the nearby highways bypassing the area. Could it be that someone travelling through had taken the Savona off-ramp from Route 17, the four-lane highway that runs close by in order to prey on the village children? Was it a pedophile, a parolee, an outsider? The murder is too shocking for it to have been one of their own. Of this, they are certain.

After volunteers find four-year-old Derrick Robie’s crushed and mutilated body, rumours swirl and spread; the boy was sexually molested. The horror grows. Village folk gossip in the booths at the Savona Diner, around kitchen tables, or over neighbor’s fences mentioning names in low voices of single men of the community and finger-point possible perpetrators.

A picture of Derrick Robie shortly before being murdered by Eric Smith.

However, the murderer is no pedophile. He is no parolee. He is no outsider. He is no adult.

Four years prior to this shocking event, while the unsuspecting residents of Savona are living their lives and going about their daily business, the blossoming mind of a young killer, who indeed lives among them, is already at work laying the groundwork, planning ways to kill his neighbor’s cat.

The killer’s name is Eric Smith. He is a heavy smoker, smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day and fast developing a nicotine addiction. He has flashes of uncontrollable anger. He constantly has strong urges to hurt someone or something. When he plans to kill the cat, he is nine. When he kills Derrick Robie, he is thirteen.

Eric Smith, thirteen-years-old and convicted for first-degree murder.

After the arrest, District Attorney John Tunney says of the murder case, “This isn’t an accident of youth; this is a calculated act… I truly believe that Eric Smith is a budding serial killer.”

Referring to Eric and his crime, the prosecutor makes it clear he believes Eric to be evil, not mentally ill. “There are clearly people who make choices which reflect pure evil. In – in my view, this heads the list.”

The author has written a book on the case, and this can be found at and other outlets shortly.

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