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Child's killer sentenced to die

Girl's videotaped abduction gained worldwide attention

Joseph P. Smith also was sentenced to life in prison without parole for kidnapping and sexual battery.


Sex Crimes
Joseph Smith

SARASOTA, Florida (CNN) -- A Florida judge formally sentenced mechanic Joseph P. Smith to death Wednesday for the 2004 murder of Carlie Brucia, whose abduction was captured by a security camera and shown around the world.

"Based upon your actions, you have forfeited your right to live freely among us in society, and pursuant to the laws of Florida, have forfeited your right to live," Judge Andrew Owens said.

Smith, who will turn 40 Friday, showed no reaction as the sentence was pronounced. (Watch the child killer receive his sentence -- 1:34)

His victim would have celebrated her 13th birthday Thursday.

"I thought I'd feel a lot different, but it still hurts. It doesn't change anything," Steve Kansler, Carlie's stepfather, said after the hearing.

Still, he said, he was relieved at the sentence. "I wanted death because I want to watch him die. That'll be my closure, so to speak, watching him die. If I could pull the trigger, I would."

In a lengthy review of aggravating and mitigating circumstances presented in favor of and against the death penalty, Owens called the crime cold, calculated and premeditated.

Slow, terrifying death

The judge noted that death by ligature strangulation, as in Carlie's case, takes two to four minutes, although unconsciousness occurs after eight to 10 seconds.

"He held Carlie's life in his hands, not for eight to 10 seconds, but for minutes," Owens said. "And as each moment passed, he made a conscious choice."

In addition, Owens said, Smith chose to kill Carlie -- and committed other actions, such as disposing of ligatures and the girl's backpack and clothing in different trash bins -- in order to avoid being caught.

Smith also lied to law enforcement officers investigating the girl's disappearance. In addition, after killing Carlie, Smith went to a friend's home and calmly discussed car repairs, the judge said.

Those actions, Owens said, invalidate defense attorneys' contention that Smith was under extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time. "Clearly, the defendant knew his actions were wrong," he said.

Car wash abduction

Smith was convicted in November of murdering Carlie, who was abducted from outside a car wash while walking home from a friend's house in February 2004. Her body was found five days later, miles from where she was last seen.

Video from the car wash's security camera showed Carlie being led away by a man in a blue shirt.

"The image of the defendant taking her by the arm and leading her away will no doubt forever be etched in our minds," Owens said.

Jurors in Smith's trial voted 10-2 to recommend the death penalty.

In addition to the death sentence, Owens sentenced Smith to life in prison without the possibility of parole for two other crimes -- sexually assaulting Carlie and kidnapping her.

"Carlie endured unspeakable trauma which began at the time of her kidnapping," Owens said.

"Her kidnapping was a deliberate and premeditated act," he added. "The defendant preyed on a young, vulnerable victim and took the necessary steps to abduct her and use her for his own sexual gratification."

The judge pointed out that Carlie, whose wrists were bound, was unable to fight back, and that Smith was nearly four times her age and twice her size.

Killer apologizes

In a hearing last month in which his attorneys presented mitigating circumstances to argue against the death penalty, Smith asked Owens to sentence him to life in prison without parole, citing the possible effect on his mother and children if he was sent to death row.

"I want to tell you, and Carlie's family, and my family, and this community how very sorry I am for these terrible crimes," a tearful Smith said. "Every day I think about what I did, and I beg God for forgiveness."

But Owens said Wednesday that only Smith knows whether he is truly remorseful, saying that although Smith said he wanted to die on the day Carlie was killed, his actions said otherwise.

The judge also said he was giving little weight to defense attorneys' arguments that Smith repeatedly sought and was denied treatment for his drug addiction and mental health issues, which included depression and bipolar disorder.

Absent from the courtroom Wednesday was Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, who is incarcerated on drug charges.

At the February hearing, a statement from Schorpen was read in which she said that Carlie's death had "forever destroyed my family."

Schorpen added in her statement that she had been institutionalized three times and turned to drugs "because the pain within my reality is too much to bear."

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