Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Abduction of Carlie Brucia

On Trial

The verdict was never seriously in doubt during Joe Smith's murder trial, held in the fall of 2005.

The car wash surveillance videotape, evidence from and about the borrowed car used in the abduction and the testimony extracted from his brother John about Joe's jailhouse confession all but sealed his fate.

Smith's car
Smith's car

After the two weeks of testimony, the jury of eight women and four men convicted of him of murder, kidnapping and sexual battery.

Most courtroom histrionics occurred during the penalty phase, when each side presented evidence as to whether Smith should live or die.

 "Carlie's future and life have been stolen from her and from her family," her paternal grandmother, Andrea Brucia, said in a written statement that was read aloud. "We will never know her as a teenager. Our family is forever broken. Our nightmares about what you've done to her our hearts will never heal."

"I can no longer watch her grow," said the girl's mother, Susan Schorpen. "I can only imagine her in a wedding gown walking down the aisle."

Jurors wept along with Schorpen.

The prosecutors, assistant state attorneys Craig Schaeffer and Debra Johnes Riva, presented a long list of aggravating factors as weighing in favor of executionnot least that Smith was merciless in strangling the child.

Dr. Vega, the medical examiner, estimated that Smith choked Carlie for several minutes to kill her. This gave him time for a "substantial level of reflection" during the murder.

Smith's three attorneys, all court-appointed public defenders, tried to portray him as a sympathetic human being.

"Joe is a man with many good qualities," said attorney Carolyn DaSilva, "but he was unable to control his drug addiction."

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