Sarasota murder victim Carlie Brucia to be remembered at memoria - WFLA News Channel 8

Sarasota murder victim Carlie Brucia to be remembered at memorial

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11-year-old Carlie Brucia was abducted from a Sarasota car wash on Feb. 1, 2004. 11-year-old Carlie Brucia was abducted from a Sarasota car wash on Feb. 1, 2004.
SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) - Ten years ago this week, haunting surveillance video captured the abduction of an 11-year-old Sarasota girl. The video made headlines across the country and sparked a massive search that ended with a tragic outcome.

On Sunday, February 1st, 2004, surveillance video from cameras posted outside Evie’s Car Wash in Sarasota recorded Joseph Smith’s car circling the business. It then captured him grabbing Carlie Brucia as she was walking home from a friend’s house.

Captain Jeff Bell with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office was a lieutenant at the time. He said it was Super Bowl Sunday.

“When the detectives brought [the surveillance video] back here to the office, and they sat down at their desk and they played it, there was a sense of awe, of immediately recognizing the gravity of what was depicted on that video," said Bell.

He said the ensuing days were long, and the entire department rallied together to find the little girl. Many detectives worked on their days off or worked extra hours for no pay.

Bell said, “You could see and you could almost feel the dedication, the sleepless nights, the countless hours, and the amount of people that called and were willing to come in and work overtime and not even get paid for it.”

“Everyone wanted to contribute to try to reach a successful outcome," said Bell.

The case garnered national attention. FBI investigators helped with the search and NASA provided technical assistance by enhancing the surveillance video.

Sadly, on February 5th, Brucia's body was found behind the Central Church of Christ on Proctor Road in Sarasota. She had been raped and murdered.

Joseph Smith was later arrested, charged and convicted of the crime. It turned out he had been released from prison 13 months earlier and was on probation when he kidnapped and murdered Carlie Brucia.

“Probably one of the most unfortunate consequences of our investigation like this other than losing a child in our community, is how the community and the sheriff’s office is probably more aware and more in tune with the vulnerability or the possibility that something like that could happen,” said Bell.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the video was the key,” Captain Bell says. 

Since Brucia’s death, more and more businesses have been using surveillance cameras, and newer technology has led to improved image enhancement.

"A lot of times either computer or digital imagery is become an important part of investigations," said Bell.

Ten years later, Bell says the Carlie Brucia case was one of the most significant of his career, and he hopes the community learns a lesson from this tragedy.

"More so than having to deal with it again, I would tell you that my hope is that we're aware of it enough that it will never happen again here,” Bell said.

This Saturday, February 1st, the Central Church of Christ will hold a 10th anniversary candlelight memorial service for Carlie Brucia. The service will start at 6:30pm.

The community is invited to attend.

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