- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2004

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — The body of an 11-year-old girl whose abduction was recorded by a surveillance camera was found yesterday in a church parking lot, and a mechanic has been charged with her slaying.

Sarasota County sheriff’s officials said Carlie Brucia’s body was found about 1 a.m. outside a church a few miles from the carwash where she was abducted. Authorities did not say how she died or whether she had been raped.

Sheriff Bill Balkwill said Joseph P. Smith, 37, has been charged in the case. Smith, who could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder, is believed to be the tattooed man in a mechanic’s shirt who was seen in the surveillance video leading Carlie away by the arm Sunday evening, authorities said.

Investigators found the body after negotiations with Smith, said a law enforcement source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Earlier, authorities had said Smith was not cooperating.

“We now stand ready to complete our obligation, and assure you that he will pay the ultimate price for what he did to her,” Capt. Jeff Bell said.

The girl’s father, Joe Brucia, somberly thanked “all the [law enforcement] people behind me and all the people that were behind them in their efforts to find my daughter.” He also thanked “the community that was so involved.”

Carlie’s stepfather, Steven Kansler, and some friends gathered at the edge of the church property yesterday morning, kneeling in a prayer circle.

Rod Myers, the church’s minister, said a Bible study group had met there Wednesday night but nobody saw the body because it was dark.

“We are all upset about it, and we all feel helpless when things like this happen,” Mr. Myers said.

In the front yard of Carlie’s home, decorated with banners and posters reading, “We love you, Carlie,” another small group of supporters joined hands and bowed their heads in prayer. The girl’s family includes Carlie’s 6-year-old half brother and a 10-year-old stepbrother.

Friends described Carlie as a beautiful girl who loved watching singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, going to the shopping mall and greeting friends with hugs. She was heading home from a slumber party when abducted.

Bob Hagemann, principal of MacIntosh Middle School, called Carlie “a shining light” at his school.

“I need my daughter home,” Carlie’s mother, Susan Schorpen, had said Thursday. “She’s a very, very important part of this family and community.”

Smith has been arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993, according to state records, and convicted of drug possession and other charges. He was arrested in 1997 in Manatee County on a false imprisonment charge but was acquitted a year later.

Smith’s public defender, Adam Tebrugge, did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.

Carlie was walking home from a friend’s house about 6:20 p.m. Sunday when she took a shortcut behind Evie’s Car Wash, which was closed for the day.

Bloodhounds led deputies to the business, and carwash owner Mike Evanoff checked the security system video Monday, he said.

The images of Carlie popped up almost immediately, he said.

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