On Thursday and with a divided decision, the Florida Supreme Court ordered that a death row inmate who kidnapped, raped, and murdered a little girl to be re-sentenced.
The Bradenton Herald reports that Joseph P. Smith was sentenced to death for the 2004 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia. Surveillance camera caught Smith carrying Brucia off by the wrist in the parking lot of Evie’s Car Wash in Sarasota. He then put the little girl in his car and drove away.
Carlie was walking home from a friend’s house around 6 p.m. on February 1, 2004, when the incident occurred. She took a shortcut through the car wash parking lot en route home when Smith approached her while wearing an auto mechanic uniform. When Carlie didn’t show up at home, her family contacted authorities. The little girl’s body was later found a few miles from the car wash behind a church. She was partially nude and had been brutally beaten, raped, and killed.
”The defendant observed Carlie Brucia walking home through the parking lot,” 2004 court documents read, according to The New York Times. “He maneuvered the vehicle he was operating to a location, in a premeditated manner to conceal his actions, where he was able to approach Carlie.”
Carlie Brucia's father, Joe, says granting her killer a new sentencing trial has stolen justice from his family. https://t.co/0oww1T5Lwe pic.twitter.com/F5RGnAN4J1
— Herald-Tribune (@HeraldTribune) July 19, 2017
Smith was convicted for Carlie’s rape and murder, and in a jury’s vote of 10 to 2 in March 2006, he was sentenced to the death penalty. Yet, a 2016 Florida Supreme Court ruling mandates that if a decision for the death sentence by a jury is not unanimous, the sentence can be reversed. Smith’s case was one of my appeals filed by death row inmates after the ruling passed.
“In Smith’s case, the jury did not make the requisite factual findings and did not unanimously recommend a sentence of death,” Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices R. Fred Lewis Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince said on Thursday. “Instead, the jury recommended the sentence of death by a vote of 10 to 2.”
Smith’s re-sentencing was upheld as the court’s decision includes retroactive cases.
Carlie’s mother, Susan Schorpen, passed away last year after leading a pained and distressed life following her daughter’s murder. According to the Polk County Sheriff’s office, Schorpen died from a drug overdose, the Herald-Tribune reported.
Carlie’s dad, Joe Brucia, told the Herald-Tribune that he was disappointed with the court’s “poor” decision.
“I’m not surprised, just disappointed. I don’t think it’s a system that strives for justice. It’s a system made for attorneys….It’s an outrage. It benefits nobody but attorneys. They will probably end up spending millions on this case so far… what he needs is to be executed.”
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Rayne Perrywinkle, the mother of Cherish Perrywinkle, lived through a similar experience when her little girl was taken from a Jacksonville Walmart by convicted pedophile, Donald Smith in June 2013. Similar to Carlie, Cherish was found beaten, raped, killed and dumped behind a church.
Perrywinkle told CrimeOnline that she adamantly disagrees with the reversal of Joseph Smith’s conviction and hopes that he somehow remains on death row.
“He’s disgusting filth. He needs to be executed. Losing a child is something you never get over. In the case of Joseph Smith, why should he be granted the privilege like he’s royalty and deserve to live when he did not think for one minute about letting Carlie live? Justice to for Carlie, justice for Cherish, and justice for all of the children taken by predators!”
[Feature Photo: Carlie Brucia, Joseph Smith/Police Handout]