A weeping Joseph Smith apologized Tuesday for abducting, raping and murdering 11-year-old Carlie Brucia two years ago, telling a judge he had taken large amounts of cocaine and heroin that day in an effort to kill himself.
Smith told Circuit Judge Andrew Owens, who will sentence Smith on March 15 to death or to life in prison, that "I do not ask for mercy for myself. The only thing I can see to give me a life sentence is for the sake of my family. I do not want to see my children hurt any further."
Carlie's abduction as she walked home from a friend's house on Feb. 1, 2004, was caught by a carwash surveillance camera. When the images were aired on television news, people acquainted with Smith quickly identified him as the man in a mechanic's uniform seen grabbing her wrist and leading her away. Her body was found on a church's grounds days later, with the help of directions Smith gave from jail to a brother. A jury convicted him last November and recommended by a 10-2 vote that he be executed. Florida law requires Owens to give "great weight" to the recommendation.
Smith, 39, told Owens he had been a heroin addict since age 19. He said his wife kicked him out of their home in January 2004, and he had lost his job. He said he took drugs in an effort to overdose and claimed he doesn't recall much of what happened the night he abducted Carlie.
"Every day I think about what I did and beg God for forgiveness," Smith said.
But prosecutor Debra Johnes Riva said Smith was lucid enough after the crime to hide Carlie's body and get rid of her clothes and backpack. And days later, he remembered where he had put the body.
"He has an absolute, complete memory of the crime," Riva said.
Riva dismissed arguments by defense attorney Adam Tebrugge that Smith could lead a productive life in prison and be a positive influence on his three daughters if he is spared.
None of that, she said, "outweighs the horrible crimes that were committed against Carlie Brucia."