Fla. Man Who Killed 11-Year-Old Girl Carlie Brucia in 2004 Dies in Prison
Joseph Smith, 55, was on death row for kidnapping, raping and murdering the girl as she walked home from a friend's house
The Florida man who killed 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in 2004 has died in prison.
Joseph Smith, 55, died on Monday at Union Correctional Institution in Radford, Fla. He was on death row when he died. The Florida Department of Corrections confirmed his death to PEOPLE but did not disclose his cause or manner of death.
Carlie's abduction made national headlines in February 2004. She was walking home from a friend's house and never made it home. Her parents reported her missing within an hour of her disappearance.
"I knew immediately something was wrong," her mother, Susan Schorpen, told PEOPLE at the time. "In my heart, in my mind, I knew."
She was right. A surveillance video at a car wash showed Carlie being confronted by a man who grabbed her by the arm and led her to his car.
The story quickly became national news. Schorpen appeared on television, begging for the return of her daughter.
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But her pleas went unanswered. Authorities arrested Joseph P. Smith, a 37-year-old father of three with a long rap sheet. Four days later, Smith led cops to Carlie's body. She had been raped and murdered. Smith was later convicted of killing the girl.
Schorpen was devastated by the loss. "I'll never be the same," she told PEOPLE at the time. "She was my life, my beautiful girl. I can't get past what happened to her. No one should go through what my family has been through."
To deal with her heartbreak, Schorpen immersed herself in fighting for the rights of children. But Schorpen battled substance abuse and was arrested several times on drug-related charges. She died of an overdose in 2017.
Smith remained on death row until Monday, when he was found dead in his cell.
Authorities hope that Smith's death will bring closure to Carlie's remaining family members.
"While nothing can bring back Carlie, we are grateful that her family, her friends, and the entire Sarasota community will finally have closure and will not have to endure any further court proceedings to bring Smith to justice," State Attorney Ed Brodsky said in a statement to the Miami Herald.