Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Abduction of Carlie Brucia

A Life Undone

Joseph P. Smith
Joseph P. Smith

The sum of Joseph Smith's prospects in life added up to zero as he sat in a car in Sarasota, Fla., on Feb. 1, 2004, with a bag of cocaine and a hypodermic needle in his lap.

After a decade as an on-again, off-again addict, Smith's drug habit was very much on again. As a result of his latest relapse, he had been run out of his comfortable home in North Sarasota by his wife and fired from his job as an auto mechanic.

Smith, 37, was flopping with friends who had loaned him their car, a 12-year-old Buick, so he could score his fix.

He found himself sitting in the car at 6:15 p.m. on that February Sunday on the well-traveled Bee Ridge Road, in southeast Sarasota, as the rest of the country was gathering in front of television sets to watch the kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Smith, alone with his cocaine, had nowhere to go in life. As a parolee and probationer, he surely understood that his relapse made a return to prison likely.

Maybe he had simply given up.

Some ex-cons drop all pretense of civilized behavior when their prospects run out. And so it was with Joseph Smith.

The streets were nearly abandoned at Super Bowl game time. But a figure walking on the sidewalka girlcaught his eye.

Her blonde hair was pulled back. She was wearing a tight red top and blue jeans. She toted a backpack. Now and then, the girl broke into a trot for a few steps, as though she were late for something.

Smith tracked the girl for a short time, then positioned his car to intercept her as she took a shortcut through an isolated spot behind a car wash.

He got out of the car and strode toward her. She tried to shy away.

But he grasped her firmly by the arm and led her away to the Buick for the last car ride she would ever have.


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