Carlie Brucia, a sixth grader from Sarasota, Florida, vanished on February 1, 2004. She was walking home from a friend’s house after visiting the Evie’s Car Wash on Bee Ridge Road, and she did not return to her parents’ house until around 6:30 PM. Her worried parents called 911, and a search began for their daughter. The case made headlines in part because of the terrifying surveillance video, and a man later identified as Joseph Smith was arrested for kidnapping and murdering Carlie.
A year after the abduction, in 2005, a jury found Smith guilty of the girl’s murder and sentenced him to death. He was executed in prison on July 26, 2021.
The case drew national attention, in part because of the disturbing surveillance footage showing Smith grabbing Brucia by her arm and leading her away from the Evie’s Car Wash on Beeridge Road. She was never seen again, and her body was discovered four days later behind a church near the site of her abduction. It was found to be partially naked, with ligature marks on her neck and linear patterns on both wrists that medical examiners said were consistent with her hands being bound.
Investigators determined that Brucia’s mother had been sexually assaulted by Smith, which helped them identify him as the suspect. They also learned that he was an active gang member, and they used a video to get him to confess to the crime and agree to testify against him in court.
During the trial, it was revealed that Smith had borrowed a car from his roommate the day he kidnapped Carlie. When he returned the vehicle, it had 300 more miles on the odometer and smudge marks on the back windows and front seat. He was also on parole for drug offenses at the time of Brucia’s disappearance.
The autopsy report of Brucia’s body confirmed that she had been strangled. It also showed that she had been raped and sexually assaulted. She was also stabbed multiple times. Her mutilated remains were found in a field behind a church in Sarasota, Florida.
Investigation Discovery’s hit true-crime series See No Evil chronicled the rape and murder of Carlie Brucia in an episode titled Come Home Carlie. The show depicted how video from surveillance cameras, testimony from eyewitnesses and family members, as well as actual police work, was able to crack the case of the girl’s kidnapping and murder. It is an excellent example of how combining this kind of information with modern investigative techniques can lead to the truth. This is why it is so popular to this day. It’s a rare glimpse into what it takes to solve a murder, and it is one of the most compelling shows on television.