Forever Lost: Investigators Announce Arrest Following Discovery of Carlie Brucia's Body
February 6, 2004 at 2:13 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 3:15 AM
It was the news her family and friends had dreaded for days: Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill confirmed early today that the lifeless body of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia had been found.
"The body of beautiful 11-year-old Carlie Brucia has been found," the sheriff tearfully told a morning news conference.
Balkwill said Carlie's parents were notified of the tragic find overnight. Carlie's father, Joseph Brucia, thanked investigators and the media for their work in helping to find Carlie. He made no other comments.
Mechanic Joseph P. Smith, who has been in custody since Tuesday, has been charged with Carlie's abduction and murder. Smith is said to be the tattooed man in a mechanic's shirt who was seen on a car wash surveillance video leading Carlie away by the arm Sunday evening, authorities said.
Balkwill refused to say where Carlie's body was found, saying it remained an active crime scene. A Florida law enforcement official promised Smith would pay "the ultimate price" in the young girl's death.
Earlier this week, the Sarasota Sheriff's Department announced Smith, who was already in custody after being arrested Tuesday for parole violations, was a suspect in Carlie's disappearance.
Smith, a 37-year-old father, has not cooperated with authorities in their investigation. His vehicle, a beige 1992 Buick Century with Florida license plate V90EIZ, has been impounded by police and investigators said they are certain it was used in Carlie's abduction.
Authorities said that more than 400 phone tips from the public led authorities to link Smith to the car wash's surveillance video.
Suspect Has Long Arrest Record
An arrest record posted on the Sarasota County Sheriff's Department Web site describes Smith as an unemployed driver and says he has tattoos on both arms.
Smith, who has been arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993, according to state records, was arrested in 1997 in Manatee County on kidnapping and false imprisonment charges. He was acquitted a year later. Records also show other arrests ranging from misdemeanor battery to felony drug possession.
Smith served 17 months in state prison for heroin possession and prescription drug fraud and was released on Jan. 1, 2003. He was arrested just eight days later on a cocaine possession charge and was placed on probation for three years.
Smith was placed on probation for aggravated battery in 1993 and heroin charges in 1999.
According to an official at the Florida Department of Corrections, a probation officer had asked a judge to declare Smith in violation of his probation on Dec. 30, because he failed to pay his fines and court costs in full. But the official says a judge refused to find Smith in violation, a move that could have returned him to jail.
Carlie's family and friends kept vigil outside Carlie's ranch-style house last night, which was decorated with banners and posters reading, "We love you, Carlie."
Balkwill choked back tears as he announced the girl's death this morning and offered his condolences to her family.
"On behalf of the entire law enforcement team, citizens who volunteered, our sympathy goes out to the entire family of Carlie," he said.