Holly Soles is one year younger than her brother, Eric Smith — the 41-year-old Steuben County man who’s been in prison since he was 13 for killing 4-year-old Derrick Robie.
Smith is now set to be released after 27 years.
“I feel that people do deserve a second chance," said Soles.
Holly knew Derrick, as most people in the small village of Savona know just about everyone. She couldn’t believe it when she found out her brother had brutally killed him.
Smith was found guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to nine years to life in prison — the maximum at that time for a 13-year-old tried as an adult.
“My heart breaks for the Robies,” Soles said. “I couldn't imagine going through what they went through at all, and then finding out that their child's murderer was granted parole. I can't imagine what they're going through.”
Soles and other family members visited Smith frequently in prison over the years.
“He’s very serious in into his Christianity and everything now,” she said.
After 10 appearances before the parole board, Smith was able to send an email to Holly saying his parole was granted.
“My emotions were all over the place,” she said. “I mean I was of course excited because, you know, my brother gets to come home and everything.”
Smith is not able to return home, however. Holly says one of the addresses he submitted to the Department of Corrections is the home of his mother, who still lives in the same house in Savona.
“You know, him putting my mom's address down … That was because he wants to be with family,” Soles said.
She says her brother was denied the request to return to his mother’s home.
“It was mainly for everyone's safety and knowing that it would [have a huge effect on] everyone that was affected by it,” Soles said.
The Department of Corrections says Smith does not yet have an approved residence and it’s working with him on identifying an approvable residence.
“As far as I know, he basically stays in prison until they find an adequate address for him,” Soles said. “One that basically will help get him back into society and the tools that he's going to need as far as doing that. I mean, think about it, he was 13 when it happened. He doesn't really know like, how to live in society.”
The Department of Corrections says it focuses on public safety and considers risk levels, laws, vulnerable populations and accessibility to an individual’s support system when making housing decisions.
“He wants to do good,” Soles said. “He wants to not just to prove that he's not a monster, as everyone says.”
Soles says Smith and their family always think of the Robies and recognize the pain.
“I just would hope that people can put things to rest and allow him to come back into society, and prove that he is worthy to be in society and not just locked away,” said Soles.
She plans to support her brother wherever he resides.
“I am his sister and I love him,” Soles said. “And I will love him. Always.”