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Fla. Child Rapist, Killer Guilty

Abduction suspect Joseph Smith and Carlie Brucia, 11, in this undated photo released by the Sarasota County Sheriff's office.
AP
A former mechanic was convicted Thursday of raping and strangling an 11-year-old girl whose abduction was captured by a car-wash security camera.

The jury took about five hours to find 39-year-old Joseph Smith in the slaying of Carlie Brucia. He could get the death penalty.

As Bill McGinty of CBS Tampa affiliate WTSP reports, Brucia's abduction from a carwash parking lot in Sarasota in February 2004 was caught by surveillance cameras, which brought the case to national attention.

Her half-naked body was found more than four days later outside a church.

Prosecutors built their case on the security-camera images of the abduction, the testimony of Smith's friends and co-workers who said they recognized the burly Smith in the footage, forensic evidence, and testimony from the defendant's brother, who said Smith admitted to the crime.

Smith declined to testify, and his attorney Adam Tebrugge waived the right to make a closing argument Wednesday, saying later that it would serve no purpose.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors recalled evidence including DNA evidence, taped jailhouse conversations in which Smith confessed to the crimes, and, above all, the security camera images of a tattooed man in a mechanics uniform grabbing Carlie by the wrist and leading her away.

Prosecutors used the videotape as the backbone of their case, McGinty said.

They also played audio tapes of Smith telling his family that he committed the crimes.

On those tapes, Smith's mother could be heard saying, "The best thing that you could do is explain that it was an accident."

"It was an accident, mom."

"I know that, Joe," Smith's mother replied.

"You don't think I would do that on purpose, mom?" Smith asked.

Brucia's grandmother, Jill Swartz, was asked if she's happy with the way the prosecution presented the case, and she said, "Yes, I am. Very much so."

During the weeklong trial, defense attorneys faulted investigators for ruling out other suspects and raised questions about the reliability of an FBI lab where the evidence was analyzed.

Earlier, Tebrugge had played a videotape of Smith's brother, John, asking about reward money in an effort to discredit the brother's testimony.

John Smith had told jurors that his sibling had confessed to "rough sex" with the girl and to killing her, and then told him where the body was.

Carlie's mother, Sue Schorpen, left the courtroom in tears Wednesday after the prosecution began its closing argument. She rarely attended the trial.