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Florida Jury Convicts Man of Killing Girl

Joseph P. Smith could be executed in the rape and murder of Carlie Brucia, 11, whose kidnapping was captured on video.

November 18, 2005|From Associated Press

SARASOTA, Fla. — A man with a long criminal record was convicted Thursday of kidnapping, raping and strangling an 11-year-old girl whose abduction was captured by a car-wash security camera.

Joseph P. Smith, 39, could get the death penalty.

The jury took about five hours to find him guilty of killing Carlie Brucia, whose body was found outside a church more than four days after the sixth-grader disappeared in February 2004 while walking home from a friend's house.

Smith was arrested after being identified as the burly, tattooed man in a mechanic's uniform who was seen taking the girl by the wrist and leading her away in a grainy video that was broadcast nationwide during the search for the killer.

Prosecutors built their case on the footage, the testimony of Smith's friends and co-workers who said they recognized Smith in the video, DNA and hair-analysis evidence, and the word of the defendant's brother, who said Smith had confessed.

Smith, who did not take the stand, showed no emotion when the verdict was read. The jury will return for the sentencing phase Nov. 28.

Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, wept softly with her head bowed when the verdict was read, and the girl's father, Joe Brucia, nodded when each of the three convictions was announced. As he left court, he said he was happy with the verdict.

Outside the courthouse, Schorpen said: "I can never hold her again. Where's the closure? I've lost one of the most precious things to me in my life because of an animal -- a disgusting, perverted animal."

When asked if she was satisfied with the verdict, she responded: "When he's dead."

At the time of the slaying, Smith was in violation of the terms of his probation on a cocaine charge because he had failed to pay $411 in fines and court costs. But a judge declined to put him in jail, saying Florida did not have a "debtor's prison."

Smith had been arrested at least 13 times since 1993, mostly on drug offenses.

In one case, he was charged with kidnapping a 20-year-old woman, but was acquitted.

He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 60 days in jail in another case, in which a woman said he hit her in the face with a motorcycle helmet.

He also served 17 months in prison on drug possession and fraud charges.

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