08/29/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
RED-HAIRED, FRECKLED AND BESPECTACLED, Eric Smith looks harmless, like an owlish Tom Sawyer. But last week a Bath, N.Y., jury, spurning an insanity defense, convicted the 14-year-old sixth-grader of second-degree murder. Smith, the jury decided, had willfully murdered 4-year-old Derrick Robie last summer (PEOPLE, Sept. 13, 1993) in nearby Savona (pop. 970). Tried as an adult, the dour teenager now faces nine-years-to-life imprisonment. He will spend the next four years in juvenile facilities before going to an adult prison at 18.
After only 11 hours of deliberation, the six-man, six-woman jury rejected the defense argument that Eric suffers from "intermittent explosive disorder," making him prone to unprovoked rages. A psychiatrist cited trimethadione as a possible cause of Eric's behavioral problems. The boy's mother, Tammy, had taken the antiseizure drug since age 5, including during each of her three pregnancies. She testified that Eric had been slow to speak and walk and denied rumors that he had once tried to strangle a cat (though Eric himself admitted it). Days after the murder, she said, he told her he had killed Derrick. "I asked him why," she recalled. "He just kept saying, 'I don't know. I don't know.' And he cried."
In the end, though, jurors were more persuaded by the prosecution's contention that Smith is a cold-blooded sadist. The crime, to be sure, was monstrous. While Derrick was walking to a local summer-rec program, Smith lured him into the woods, choked him and stuffed a napkin and Baggie from the preschooler's packed lunch down the gasping child's throat. He then smashed Derrick's head with a 26-pound rock and dropped another rock on his torso. That night, he later told a prosecution psychiatrist, he "slept like a baby."
For Dale and Doreen Robie, parents of the spunky blond victim, there is little solace in the jury's decision. "The hurt is still there," Doreen, 28, says. "I don't care what they do with Eric, as long as he doesn't come back."