Death sentence for Carlie Brucia's killer is vacated, 11-year-old murdered in Sarasota in 2004

Posted at 10:32 AM, Jul 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-19 18:19:01-04

A former auto mechanic found guilty of strangling an 11-year-old Florida girl, whose abduction was captured by a security camera and whose case garnered worldwide attention, will receive a new sentencing trial.

Circuit Judge Charles Roberts on Tuesday granted a part of Joseph Smith’s motion to vacate his death sentence for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of Carlie Brucia.

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In December 2005, a jury recommended death for Smith by a 10-2 vote and also imposed concurrent life terms for the sexual assault and kidnapping convictions.

In this latest ruling, Roberts ordered a new penalty phase trial, which does not overturn the verdict in the case. Smith will be back in court in late August.


The case shocked the nation. Surveillance video showed the suspect, Joe Smith luring Carlie away. The massive search and the tragic discovery is hard for anyone in the Bay Area to forget.

"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, 10 years after the tragedy occurred.