Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Abduction of Carlie Brucia

Caught on Tape

The Manatee County Sheriff's Department declined to issue an alert since no one had witnessed the abduction. There was no way to know whether a crime had taken place, Schorpen was told.

Perhaps the girl had run away.

This is the Amber Alert bugaboo that vexes the loved ones of so many children who turn up missingthat makes some wonder whether alerts are issued selectively based upon the wealth or influence of the families of victims.

No alert was issued for Carlie Brucia even thought she fit the classic profile of the most endangered category of child victim of a stranger abduction.

Only about 100 such cases are reported each year. But nine out of 10 victims are females, half are sexually assaulted, and three out of four are killed within three hours.

As an alternative to an Amber Alert, the sheriff used a decidedly less high-tech investigatory tool: blood hounds. And for no particular reason, investigators chose to focus initially on the stepfather as a suspect.

The dogs tracked Carlie Brucia's scent from the Arnold home, along Bee Ridge to Evie's Car Wash, at 4735 Bee Ridge Road, where the trail ended.

Investigators noticed a motion-activated security camera at the back of the building, a spot that neighborhood kids often use as a short cut to the residential area behind it.

On a hunch, police contacted the firm's owner, Mike Evanoff, to see about looking at the security camera footage. But they didn't get around to viewing the tape until early Monday afternoon, about 18 hours after Carlie had disappeared.

The camera's memory indicated that it had been activated by motion at precisely 6:21 p.m. Sunday.

When Evanoff and police cued the device to that video snip, they were aghast at what they saw. Improbably, the camera had captured Carlie's abduction.

Still from Carlie's abduction video
Still from Carlie's abduction video

As she walked west across the car wash property, the girl was suddenly confronted by a man who strode boldly toward her, grabbed her right arm, spoke to her for a few seconds, then firmly led her away, off camera, toward a Buick station wagon that was also seen on the tape.

"We were all just stunned," Evanoff told reporters. "I wasn't really expecting to see what I saw. It was chilling."

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