Carlie Brucia's killer Joseph Smith may have killed Tara Reilly 4 years before raping and murdering 11-year-old

The 25-year-old's naked body was found in 2000 and recent investigations suggest that the 53-year-old may have been involved

                            Carlie Brucia's killer Joseph Smith may have killed Tara Reilly 4 years before raping and murdering 11-year-old
(Florida Department of Corrections)

BRADENTON, FLORIDA: Joseph Smith, a Florida man sentenced to death for murdering Carlie Brucia in Sarasota in 2004, is also a suspect in the killing of a 25-year-old woman four years prior to killing and raping the 11-year-old. New investigations suggest that Tara Reilly, who was found dead in 2000, may have been killed by the 53-year-old. Smith is currently behind bars at the Florida State Prison in Raiford after being convicted of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering Carlie in 2004. During the time of the kidnapping of the little girl, a video camera behind a car wash on Bee Ridge Road reportedly captured the chilling crime.

But the brutal attack on Reilly took place four years before Carlie’s case. Her naked body was found on March 28, 2000, in a pond behind a Walmart on Cortez Road in Bradenton. As per reports, at the time she and her ex-boyfriend were fighting a legal battle for the custody of their child and she had been called to the parking lot by a phone call from someone who claimed to have some valuable information. An investigation was launched at the time, but the case remains unsolved. But the new information in the case has come after a Herald-Tribune investigation published in November 22’s print edition examined the crime that happened 20 years ago.

Bradenton Police Department Assistant Chief Paul McWade said Joseph is the suspect in Reilly’s case. He also stated that investigators will soon probably interrogate him as he awaits execution. “This is probably the biggest cold case homicide Bradenton has ever had,” McWade added. John Smith, brother of the criminal, told the Herald-Tribune, “I’m glad that story put a kick in the authorities’ butts to do something about Tara. She was a sweet girl. She had a long life ahead of her. Way too early to depart this earth. I hope they solve this before my brother dies.”

Meanwhile, Tara’s 76-year-old mother, Kathleen Reilly, accused authorities of negligence in the case as she claimed to have heard nothing from the Bradenton Police Department, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office or the State Attorney’s Office in these years. But McWade has refuted the old mother’s claim and said authorities have been in contact with the family, especially Tara’s father, Raymond, who died in 2018. “This was the case that has haunted one of our detectives for his whole career,” he stated.

The November 22 investigative piece by Herald-Tribune also explored two theories that linked Joseph to Tara’s death. The first one was a trip to Disney during the New Year in 2000. Tara went on that trip to Orlando with John, Joseph DeGregorio, Robert Shullich, and two other women. The victim was a former employee of a chain of highly successful labs called Acculab, whose owner was John and DeGregorio. Kathleen and John both told the Herald-Tribune that Tara was raped during the trip. Joseph’s brother even claimed that Shullich told him he was the rapist. Shullich, not alive anymore, and DeGregorio were best friends and in a 2006 interview, John admitted that it was possible Joseph was paid by DeGregorio to kill Tara so that she can’t say anything about the alleged sexual assault. “I’ve always thought it was the people from the lab. It was a mother’s intuition,” Kathleen said.

And most recently, John came up with another theory as he said Tara once turned down his convicted murderer brother for sex and because of that he took her life. “In my mind I know he did it. No one can convince me otherwise. I’d bet my life on it,” he told the Herald-Tribune.

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