Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Abduction of Carlie Brucia

"Wanted to Die"

Thirteen friends and acquaintances (but no immediate family members) spoke on behalf of Smith. There were no revelations about Mother Teresa moments in his life.

He loved animals. He once helped a girlfriend learn to drive. He gave gasoline to a biker whose tank was dry. He was nice to his niece. He worked cheap on cars.

Another of his lawyers, Adam Tebrugge, tried to cast Smith as something of a victim of lenient treatment and ineffective rehab commitments dating to 1992.

Adam Tebrugge
Adam Tebrugge

Tebrugge said, "The defendant repeatedly sought help for his problems, but was either denied help or received ineffective assistance for his problems."

In the end, the jury voted 10-2 in favor of execution after what jurors described as emotional deliberations.

Judge Andrew Owens was charged with making the final decision about Smith's fate, but under Florida law he was compelled to give the recommendation "great weight."

Joe Smith, who had gained considerable weight since his arrest, was given a chance to stand before Judge Owens and make his case for life.

"I do not ask for mercy for myself," said Smith, weeping. "The only thing I can see to give me a life sentence is for my family. I do not want to see them hurt any further."

Smith said he was trying to kill himself on that Super Bowl Sunday after a lifetime of drug addiction.

"I just wanted to die that day," he said.

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