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Missing Girl

Aired February 3, 2004 - 14:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live now to Sarasota, Florida, and listen to that news conference we were telling you about. This about that missing girl. We're listening to members of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. I'm not exactly sure who this one is right now, but let's listen in.

COL. TERRY LEWIS, SARASOTA CO. SHERIFF'S OFFICE: ... law enforcement agencies, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In a moment, I'll be introducing Major Kevin Gooding, who is in charge of our north district patrol. He is overall commander of the investigation. Recognizing this is an ongoing, dynamic investigation, please realize, we can't answer all of your questions.

After a statement by Major Gooding, we will introduce members of the family, and they have some things to say. Please respect their privacy. Please respect what going through at this time. After that, we'll take some questions and answers, and then we will make some housekeeping announcement.

Major Kevin Gooding.


As the colonel stated, I am Kevin Gooding. I am a major with the sheriff's office. I thank you for coming this afternoon, and I appreciate all of the assistance you have given us in getting information about this case out to the public.

As we all know, we are here looking for Carlie J. Brucia. She's an 11-year-old girl that goes to McIntosh Middle School. She's a 6th grader here in Sarasota, Florida. She's five feet tall. She weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a red shirt, blue jeans, and a pink backpack.

We believe that Carlie was abducted from this location yesterday evening at 6:21 p.m. She was walking home from a friend's house, less than a half a mile away from here.

Thanks to a very conscientious business owner here at Evie's Car Wash, we have what we consider to be the most important piece of evidence that we have at this point, and that is a digital camera video image that came from a camera mounted at the rear of this car wash, basically in the direction that your cameras are pointed. This digital camera image tells us what time she was taken, and it shows us who her abductor was. Make no mistake about it, we believe that Carlie was taken against her will, and we are treating this as an abduction.

We fear for her safety. On behalf of Carlie's family, I'd like to make a plea to the man who took her away, or to anyone who knows of her whereabouts. Please bring Carlie home. Carlie, if you can see and hear us, please know that we will stop at nothing, we will not stop until we find you. And if you can, Carlie, please call or run for help. But most of all, Carlie, do not give up.

I want to assure all of you that the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, the FBI, in conjunction with the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, are willing to commit every resource available to find Carlie. We have utilized the Florida National Amber Alert program, and the National Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children locator system, and we're encouraged by the nationwide response we have already garnered by that information being distributed.

We would also like everyone to know that we can be contacted at the sheriff's office, and any investigator that needs to receive information on this case can be contacted by use of a toll free number. That number is posted on a flyer that we have made available to everyone here. That number is 1-88-38-AMBER.

We are also very pleased to announce at this moment that there's a $25,000 reward being posted for information leading to the arrest and the conviction of persons responsible for Amber's disappearance. That money right now has been offered by a private corporation.

At this time, I would like to introduce several members of Carlie's family. They would like to make a statement, and once we are finished with that, I will return to finish my comments and take any questions.

Mr. Brucia.

JOE BRUCIA, FATHER: A lot of what I had to say, the major has already said, but I would like -- there were people here less than 300 feet away from the abduction, several people. If any of you that were in this area can just sit back and reflect and try and focus and concentrate and try and remember anything you might have seen, because there were people here. It was in daylight, and I just love my daughter very much, and I need her home. And any help that any of you can please give.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Carlie, if you can hear this, your mom's at home. She's waiting for you to come home. She loves you, she needs you at home. Whoever has her, her mother is pleading to please let her go. She's an 11-year-old girl. She should not have been taken.

Her family, her friends, her schoolmates have all been calling with wishes. They want her home. They need her to be home safe. She's a child. You can't keep a child. She needs to be with her family. Her mother couldn't be here, because she can barely get out of the sofa. She wants her daughter home. She needs Carlie to be here.

I would like to do one last thing. I would like to thank Evie's for being so supportive in getting out this film to the police department.

Like I said, her mother couldn't be here, but she mother really wants to thank everybody who works at Evie's for being able to release something, because with that, we wouldn't have been able to have the amber alert, because we had nothing to go. So we thank the establishment here.

And if those golfers who are out there, they were here, we saw them. If they have any time of information, Super Bowl Sunday. People were getting to super bowl parties. It's so important. This is a very, very populated area. If anybody knows anything, everything is crucial at this point. Time is going by, and her mom is waiting for her daughter to get home.

Thank you.

GOODING: I'm going to address what I think may be a question. There have been several questions positioned about why there was not an Amber Alert issued until 24 hours after her disappearance. I will tell you that there is very specific information that is required before an Amber Alert can be issued, and that information can be located on a Web site that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement posts. And that specific information states, quote, that, we must have specific information, there must be a clear indication that an abduction occurred, and we must also conclude that the child's life is in danger. We could not draw that conclusion. We did not have that information until yesterday afternoon when the video became available. It was soon thereafter this we issued the Amber Alert. So if anyone had that as a question, that is why there was a 24-hour delay in the Amber Alert being issued.

Just to comment in general on where we're at investigation wise, we have received in excess of 100 calls in response to your media response and getting the information out there and the alerts. Most of those leads were general in nature. A lot have to pertain with the person in the video, the abductor. People think that he looks familiar, or they are commenting about the uniform, or things like that. I won't make any comments about any specific leads.

There is one lead specifically that I will comment about, because it apparently is somewhat known. We did receive information from a Kissimmee (ph) Police Department this morning, Kissimmee, Florida, there was a man walking at 5:50 this morning in an area, and he sees a green four-door Honda in a parking lot, apparently a shopping area. Adjacent to that vehicle, he sees a man and a female in some kind of an altercation, some kind of disturbance and a struggle. He believes the female was wearing a red shirt and blue jeans. They struggled, and he believes that the female got away, or moved away, or ran away from the male. The male tried to grab her, tried to bring her back, or get in her vicinity again. The man did not determine whether that happened. He did go home. When he arrived at home, he saw the Amber Alert and realized that that struggle he just saw could be related to our investigation, so he contacted the Kissimmee Police Department. We received a call from the Kissimmee Police Department. We have since sent an investigator to the Kissimmee Police Department and we are working that in conjunction with the FBI.

So that is one lead we are following up. I have no indication for you, I can't give you any determination on where that lead stands at this point.


GOODING: I will take questions in just one moment, please.

Also comment that in general, if you could imagine, we are treating all the information we have about registered sexual offenders and predators in our area, those that we know of and those don't know of even from out of our area. That's being diligently worked.

We're also focusing very much on enhancing the digital image that we have. Obviously we would like to enhance that to gain more information about the abductor, any distinct physical characteristics about him that we can't tell from the image at this point. So that's something that we are working very diligently at this point.

Before I take any questions, what I would like to do is introduce a special agent in charge, Carl Whitehead from the Tampa FBI office. And after he's made a comment, then I will return for questions.

CARL WHITEHEAD, SAC FBI: Thank you, major, my name is Carl Whitehead with the FBI in Tampa, which covers the Sarasota area.

And we have, in working in conjunction with Major Gooding, provided all of the available resources the FBI has to bear to assist in this matter to locate this young child. We have agents working on all of the leads that are generated here so we can thoroughly and aggressively follow up on these leads.

We also are analyzing the intelligence that we are receiving on this matter. We have our profilers developing that intelligence, hopefully to assist as well.

We are coordinating this matter with our national office in Washington, D.C. and will bring additional resources to bear as necessary. So we are working very closely with the sheriff's department to get this matter resolved. Thank you.

GOODING: Thank you. And also for the sake of information, the investigative operations for this investigation are being coordinated and led by Captain Jeff Bell to my left. The location where you are at now will be staffed primarily by myself, or by Chuck (UNINTELLIGIBLE), public information officer here.

So we established this location primarily for your benefit as a means for you to get information as we're's able to provide it. I know the colonel may have mentioned -- I don't remember if he mentioned there will be another press conference at 7:30 or we will try to update you, again.

Beyond that, I will entertain some questions, but please keep in mind this is an ongoing investigation of a very sensitive nature. We are trying to balance that versus getting out as much information as possible to the public. So with that in mind, I will entertain questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) been hearing that you believe she may be out of the area. Why do you think that? Can you elaborate on that?

GOODING: We don't think that or know that. We are assuming that anything could have happened at this point. So other than the tip from Kissimmee, we have to assume the worst case scenario, that she could be traveling out the are.

So that is why the amber alert was issued, and we have assistance from the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement. We are national at this point, investigation and information wise.

QUESTION: Do you have any kind of leads on the type of uniform or shirt the suspect was wearing (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

GOODING: Again I won't comment specifically. Some of the leads have been in regards to the general nature of that uniform. We all know that service personnel, mechanics type people, people that work at tire stores, thing like that, wear that type of uniform. But there are others that you probably wouldn't even think of that would wear a uniform of that type.

So anything specific related to that I can't comment on.


GOODING: Obviously when we enhance the video, we are looking for anything we may gain from an enhancement. And if we happen to find something that is visible to us, that is not visible at this time we will be interested in that information.

QUESTION: Is this a digital image that was on the camera?

GOODING: Yes. And I don't know what the proper terminology is, I guess we're all used to video, videotape and videotape cameras, but this is a camera system that records the images digitally. So it's slightly different in the way you retrieve and enhance is those images.

QUESTION: Does that affect your ability to maximize or clarify it.

GOODING: I am not an expert. We have experts that are working on that and we are hopeful that we have a very good possibility for doing that.


O'BRIEN: We have been listening to Major Kevin Gooding who is with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, bringing us up to date on the search for Carlie Brucia who disappeared Super Bowl Sunday evening, as she walked from a friend's house back home, cutting across a park parking lot. And we see the tape over and over again, the abduction clearly there with a person who appears to be wearing some sort of uniform.

We are told they have been getting lots of tips, including one which lead them to Kissimmee, Florida which if you've been down to Florida as you know is about 120 miles away from Sarasota, just south of Orlando.

Not sure whether to make much of that at this point, but nevertheless the tips are coming in, and police are working this with the FBI. This is a national investigation and we are assessing anything that could have happened, and have to assume in some cases the worst case scenario.


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