Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Abduction of Carlie Brucia

An Addict's Story

Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith

Joe Smith said drugs made him do itthat he hadn't been himself on Feb. 1 after shooting up a pure, potent strain of cocaine.

But then, Smith hadn't been himself for most of his adult life.

He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 17, 1966. Drugs and depression took hold early.

Smith said he was a heroin addict by age 19, but he was catholic in his narcotics habitscocaine, crack, prescription opiate painkillers, speed.

He was a passable auto mechanic and was employed as often as not. But he had no self-control when it came to narcotics, and drug benders ended one job and one relationship after another.

Depression became his foil, the convenient enemy he could blame for his drug problem. But which came first, the addiction or the depression? In either case, his life entered a well-worn rut and stayed there.

After struggling with crack in New York in the 1980s, he tried to get a fresh start by moving to Florida in 1991. It didn't work.

He narrowly survived an overdose in 1993, and he spent most of the following decade in jail, on probation or in drug rehab, according to a profile by Brian Haas of the Bradenton, Fla., Herald. Between lockups, he managed to marry Castrillon and father three daughters.

In many ways, Smith embodied the American criminal justice dilemma over narcotics.

He was arrested more than a dozen times in Florida, mostly for felony drug violations. Under the law, he could have been locked up for long stretches. But again and again, he was allowed to plead no contest in exchange for probation, community supervision, house arrest or mandatory drug rehab.

At times, Smith was a functioning member of society, with a home, a family and a job. Probation officers seemed to like him; they wrote hopeful reports on his progress. And when he fell off the wagon, Smith often managed to convince a judge that he deserved another shot.

And he got plenty of them.

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