SARASOTA, Fla - Friends and family gathered to remember Carlie Brucia, 10 years after the tragedy. The 11-year-old girl was heading home after a sleepover on February 1, 2004, when surveillance video from a car wash showed a man luring her away.
"It was such a tragedy with Carlie, but it has helped a lot of other kids now," said Steven Kansler, Carlie's step-father as he addressed the large crowd gathered at the Central Church of Christ.
Her mother, Susan Schopren was too emotional to speak at the place her daughter's body was found four days after her abduction.
"Hopefully, it makes kids aware and adults aware, it could happen to you. You hear about it happening somewhere else, not in your backyard," said Kansler.
The case shocked the nation. That surveillance video showed the suspect, Joe Smith luring Carlie away. The massive search and the tragic discovery is hard to forget, even for seasoned officers who attended the memorial.
"There is no greater victim than a child, especially an 11-year-old girl. For something like this to happen to her, it is our worst nightmare. But it gave us that sense of vigilance, and that is what drives us all together to bring him to justice," said Captain Jeff Bell of the Sarasota Sheriff's Office.
Smith sits on death row, but in the past 10 years, the church has worked with the community, sponsoring eight kids' safety rallies among other campaigns,.all in memory of the little girl gone too soon.
"We are going to keep Carlie's memory alive. This will always be a place where you can come and remember and take care of the kids in our community," said Pastor Rod Myers
For Kansler, seeing all the people at the memorial helps ease his pain in hopes of protecting another child.
"I think it woke a lot of people up, and people learned from it."