How did Joseph Smith die? Death row inmate who raped and killed Carlie Brucia, 11, found dead

Joseph Smith, 55, was awaiting resentencing in Carlie Brucia's case, a crime he had committed at 35 years of age

                            How did Joseph Smith die? Death row inmate who raped and killed Carlie Brucia, 11, found dead
Joseph Smith died in prison on July 26 while awaiting resentencing for raping and murdering Carlie Brucia, 11, in 2004 (Sarasota County Sheriff via Getty Images)

SARASOTA, FLORIDA: Joseph Smith, who was sent to jail in 2004 for raping and then killing 11-year-old Carlie Brucia has died in prison. The 55-year-old convicted killer's death news was announced by the state Attorney General's Office. He was on death row and awaiting resentencing in Brucia's case, a crime he had committed at 35 years of age. 

Speaking of criminal deaths, Rodney James Alcala, 77, who was on death row for killing five people, including a 12-year-old Robin Samsoe in 1979 died in a California prison on July 24. Another death row inmate, Stephen Hugueley, who was convicted of shooting his mother Rachel Waller and dumping her dead body in a river, was found dead in his cell at a Tennessee prison on July 16. He died after a motion to set an execution date for him was filed. Ex-MMA fighter Travis Fulton was found dead after an apparent suicide in Iowa jail where he was held since February this year. He was initially charged for encouraging a minor to engage in sexual behavior and another victim came forward with her story later. He pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography charges. 


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Joseph Smith was convicted for the February 2004 abduction, rape, and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia a week prior and faces the death penalty  (Photo by Chip Litherland-Pool/Getty Images)

How did Joseph Smith die?

Joseph Smith was found dead in a Sarasota prison on the afternoon of July 26. He was awaiting resentencing, the hearing for which was scheduled for next year. He couldn't be sentenced to death the last time as Florida Supreme Court ruled that juries must be unanimous in death penalty cases. In Smith's case, they had voted 10-2. Information related to the cause of his death was not made available to the public. “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. 

The Carlie Brucia case 

Carlie Brucia went missing on February 1, 2004, in Sarasota. She left her friend's house at 6.15 pm from a sleepover the previous night, however, she didn't make it home till 7.30 pm. Her parents dialed 911 and the police began a rigorous search operation. They used a bloodhound to search for Brucia who lost the scent near a car wash. The owner of the business was willing to help and informed police about the motion cameras he had installed, footage from which turned out to be helpful. 

Brucia's parents immediately recognized her from the footage. One of the cameras saw a man walking towards her, talking to her for a bit, and then leading her towards the backside of the car wash. The other three cameras caught a yellow station wagon outside the car wash between 6.15 pm and 6.19 pm. Police released the footage to the media and they received a huge number of tips that said the man could be Joseph Smith. The criminal's own brother John recognized his brother. 

Susan Schorpen (R) and Steven Kansler (L), Carlie Brucia's mother and stepfather celebrate the death penalty recommendation given by the jury for Joseph Smith December 1, 2005 in Sarasota, Florida. The jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty (Photo by Tim Boyles/Getty Images)


Smith who worked as a mechanic was questioned by the police but he had an alibi. The man in the footage had tattoos and when police asked Smith to roll up his sleeves, they saw his tattoos. However, there was nothing in his car or home related to Brucia and he couldn't be arrested at the time. Police later discovered that Smith's landlords owned a yellow station wagon like the one seen in the car wash footage. They confirmed to the police that Smith had borrowed their car for 15 minutes but he didn't return it till the next day. The landlords also confirmed he was wearing his mechanic's uniform when he left with the car that day. The man in the footage was wearing a uniform. 

Police searched the car and while they couldn't find any prints, they found two head hair and seven shirt fibers which were consistent with Brucia's. Smith was arrested but no one knew what happened to Brucia. His brother John helped the police. Smith spoke to John while being held in jail and told him he had "oral sex, rough sex, and sex where he ejaculated inside her." No semen was found inside Brucia's body but her shirt did have a stain, the DNA for which matched with Smith's. In his conversation with John, Smith had mentioned he didn't know what happened to Brucia because he was high on cocaine but she could be alive and mentioned a church. John directed police to the church and police found Brucia's body in a wooded area. 

Patricia Davis, Joseph Smith's mother, waits outside the courthouse during a break in her son's sentence hearing December 1, 2005 in Sarasota, Florida (Photo by Tim Boyles/Getty Images)

The official cause of her death was strangulation and there were ligature marks around her neck and consistent marks on both of her wrists which indicated her hands had been bound. This was not the only case that Smith was involved in. He was arrested 13 times in Florida and his rap sheet mentioned kidnapping and false imprisonment charges. He was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, separate charges of kidnapping, and capital sexual battery.

John testified against his brother and after going through video footage and DNA evidence, Smith was found guilty on all charges. He was sentenced to death after the jury voted 10-2. The death sentence was tossed in 2016 after US Supreme Court ruled a unanimous jury verdict was required to send an inmate to the gallows. Smith died before his resentencing.