November 17, 2005

Florida jury convicts man for murder of 11-yr-old

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida jury on Thursday convicted a
man of kidnapping, raping and then murdering an 11-year-old
girl last year in a crime that was partially captured by a
security camera.

Joseph Smith, a Sarasota auto mechanic with a long criminal
record, was found guilty on all charges in a verdict that was
broadcast live on cable television.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Smith, who is
married and has three young daughters. Hearings on a sentence
are due to begin November 28.

The abduction of Carlie Brucia of Sarasota attracted
national attention because it was caught on camera. A huge
search had been mounted in the area.

Brucia disappeared on February 1, 2004, while walking home
alone from a friend's house. As she walked behind a closed car
wash, a surveillance camera showed a man approaching the girl,
grabbing her arm and leading her away.

Her body was found five days later and police said she had
been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Prosecutors presented DNA evidence tying a semen stain
found on Brucia's clothes to Smith, and also written and spoken
confessions he made to his brother and mother.

Smith, 39, was on probation when he was arrested. Despite
his criminal record, he had been released from prison in
January 2003 after serving only a year on drug charges.

Brucia's mother, Susan Schorpen, thanked the jury for the

"I lost one of the most precious things in my life because
of an animal, a disgusting perverted animal," Schorpen told
reporters after the verdict was announced.

"I can never hold her (Brucia) again. I love her. I miss
her. I wish she was here," Schorpen added.

She said Smith deserved to be executed and that it should
be done quickly.

"He's going to eat and he's going to sleep and you know,
he's going to get more years of appeals than my daughter had in
life and I've got a problem with that," Schorpen said.

Smith did not testify. His public defender questioned the
reliability of the DNA evidence and said police did not
investigate other possible suspects.