Convicted murderer and rapist Joseph Smith, 55, died Monday in a Florida prison. His cause of death is unknown
A convicted child killer has died in a Florida prison 17 years after kidnapping, raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl — and three years after his death sentence was lifted due to a legal loophole.
Joseph Smith, 55, died Monday while in custody at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida, while still awaiting sentencing.
His cause of death is unknown.
Smith, then 39, was convicted in 2006 of the kidnapping, rape and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.
The Florida State Attorney’s Office issued a statement saying, “While nothing can bring Carlie back. we are grateful that her family, her friends and the entire Sarasota community will finally be closed and will not have to undergo further legal proceedings to bring Smith to justice.”
Carlie’s father Joe told… FOX 13“I feel great,” when he heard the news of Smith’s passing. ‘It’s been a while. The inept and corrupt criminal justice system couldn’t pull it off, so the natural order of things finally took care of it.”
Smith was sentenced to death by lethal injection by a jury of 10-2 in March 2006.
But that sentence was overturned in 2018, following a separate decision by the state’s Supreme Court in 2016 that ordered death sentences to be unanimous.
This came despite Smith being caught on a surveillance camera grabbing the pre-teen by the arm and dragging her from a car wash in Sarasota to her eventual death.
Brucia was 11 years old when Smith followed her to a remote parking lot and kidnapped her
Smith (left) was caught by a security camera on February 1, 2004, grabbing 11-year-old Carlie Brucia (right) by the arm and dragging her to her eventual death
The recording of the scene of Brucia’s abduction on February 1, 2004 showed Smith approaching the young girl in a remote area in a parking lot.
She looked down as she walked, until Smith approached and grabbed her arm.
The two were seen standing for a moment, until Smith led her away by the wrist.
Brucia’s body was found four nights later in the grounds of Central Church of Christ at 6221 Proctor Road, after it had been raped and murdered.
Smith was arrested and confessed to the crime before her body was found.
During his trial, it was revealed that Smith was an unemployed auto mechanic and a long-serving convicted drug user who had recently violated his probation but was released prior to his assault on Brucia.
Since Smith was placed on death row in March 2006, he has repeatedly attempted to appeal the verdict.
Tape, taken from the scene of Brucia’s abduction on February 1, 2004, showed Smith approaching the young girl in a remote area in a parking lot.
Joseph Brucia, Carlie Brucia’s father, said he felt ‘great’ about Smith’s death
He was repeatedly dismissed, until the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2016 in Hurst v. Florida that “a unanimous jury recommendation for death is required before the court can impose a death sentence.”
That decision was deemed to have retroactive effect to Smith’s case, which closed in 2011, because it applied to all cases decided after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Ring vs. Arizona in 2002, which determined that a jury must find aggravating factors in order to impose the death penalty.
Brucia’s mother, Susan Schorpen, died at the age of 47. She would have led a difficult life after her daughter’s death, according to the Herald Tribune, and reportedly died of an overdose.
Her death happened about a month after it became clear that Smith would get the rehearsal he had long hoped for.
Susan Schorpen (center), Carlie Brucia’s mother and supporters arrive to testify at the Joseph Smith sentencing stage on November 28, 2005 in Sarasota, Florida
Schorpen, died of an overdose at age 47 after struggling to accept her daughter’s horrific death
At the time of Smith’s original conviction in 2006, Schorpen called Smith an “animal” and expressed how happy she was that he was given the death penalty.
“He’s still breathing, and my daughter isn’t. … He couldn’t be dead soon enough for me,” she said, frustrated that he would have the usual number of required appeals before his sentence was carried out.
In July 2018, a lower court first ordered that Smith’s death sentence be lifted and that another conviction be held.
Brucia’s father, Joe Brucia, said his family had been deprived of justice at the time.
Jennfer Luttman, an FBI forensic investigator, shows the jury the torn and stained red shirt 11-year-old Carlie Brucia was wearing when her body was found
Assistant State Attorney Debra Johnes Riva (R) and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Det. Toby Davis holds up Joseph Smith’s mechanic uniform as evidence
“Obviously it’s a very bad decision. He committed a crime, a heinous crime and the state of Florida has sentenced him and sentenced him to death,” he told the Herald-Tribune.
“I’m not surprised, just disappointed. I don’t think it’s a system that strives for justice. It’s a system made for lawyers.’
‘It is a shame. Nobody benefits except lawyers,” Brucia added. “They’ll probably spend millions so far on this case… what he needs is to be executed.”
Smith had requested in July that Twelfth Circuit Court judge Charles Roberts immediately replace a life sentence, but that request was denied and the suspension of his sentence was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
Because only 10 of the 12 jurors in Smith’s conviction voted for the death penalty instead of life imprisonment, the Supreme Court upheld the Circuit Court order and his death sentence has now been officially lifted.
A new jury was due to pronounce a verdict on Smith, but no date had been set for his death.
The back of the Car Wash Detail Center in Sarasota, Florida, where Carlie was kidnapped
Joseph Smith was sentenced to death by lethal injection in March 2006, but was awaiting sentencing at the time of his death