Their Daughter Returned Home on Foot After She Argued With Her Friends, Then It Ended Tragically

The tragic case of Carlie Brucia

Carlie Brucia — image from

It was in the evening.

And the police received a phone call from a panicking mother.

Her eleven-year-old daughter was nowhere to be found. She’d fought with her friends and then disappeared.

Dispatcher: 911, what’s the location of the emergency?

Caller: My daughter is missing.

Dispatcher: Ok, has she been missing before?

Caller: No. She had a fight with her girlfriends and decided to walk home…. She’s gone. We can’t find her anywhere.

Carlie Was an Eleven Year Old

Carlie Jane Brucia was an eleven-year-old girl from Sarasota, Florida, USA.

Carlie was born to Susan Schorpen and Joe Brucia. Her parents had separated. So Carlie went to live with her mother and stepfather, Steven Kansler, in Sarasota.

She lived with her younger brother, whom she loved very much. And she maintained a healthy relationship with her father. She often went to visit him.

Her father and aunties spoiled her whenever she visited.

They loved her.

Carlie Disappeared on Super Bowl Sunday

Carlie Brucia — image from kileystruecrime

Carlie was reported missing on 1 February 2004.

It all started the previous day when Carlie spent the night at her friend’s house. Carlie told her friend’s mother that she was going to walk home. Her friend’s mother agreed.

Carlie’s mother’s friend called Susan and told her that Carlie was walking home. That didn’t settle well with her.

Susan sent Steven to find Carlie. He couldn’t find her.

Steven thought that somehow he had missed Carlie. He drove back home only to find out that Carlie wasn’t home.

Susan felt that something terrible had happened to Carlie.

Susan and Steven left the house together to look for their daughter again. They noticed a red truck driving slowly past them.

They retraced Carlie’s steps back to her friend’s house. Surprisingly, they saw the same red truck parked in front of them.

And that was strange.

Carlie Was Reported As Missing

Susan called the police and reported her daughter missing.

The search for Carlie immediately began. The police advised the public to be on the lookout for Carlie.

Carlie’s family printed missing person flyers with Carlie’s face on them. These were distributed everywhere. Then the police learned that Steven visited a local business to hand out flyers.

He’d asked one of the employees if he could buy drugs a couple of days after everything was over.

Steven seemed not to take Carlie’s disappearance seriously.

He was brought down for questioning. He stated that he was home the whole time with Susan on the day that Carlie disappeared.

Steven’s alibi was confirmed, and the police cleared him as a suspect.

The Police Suspected Someone Else

There was another person of interest.

It was the suspicious driver of the red truck who appeared to follow Susan and Steven on the day that Carlie went missing.

His name was Ron.

Ron was dating Carlie’s friend’s mother. He was home on the night that Carlie slept over.

Ron was brought in for questioning. But he, too, had a solid alibi.

Meanwhile, Carlie’s search continued.

The investigators brought sniffer dogs to assist in their search. The dogs followed Carlie’s scent to a parking lot of a car wash. Then, they lost Carlie’s scent near the back of the building.

The police looked into the CCTV cameras that were on the building.

The footage showed a man approaching Carlie from the opposite direction. Then he grabbed her hand and forcibly dragged her away.

Carlie Had Been Kidnapped

Snippets of the CCTV footage showed a man approaching Carlie — from allthatsinteresting

It was clear that the eleven-year-old was abducted in broad daylight by a violent predator.

The man in the footage was white and of average height. He had dark hair and tattoos on his forearms.

The man also wore overalls with a name tag on it. The name on the tag wasn’t visible.

The footage was played on the local news stations. The police received many leads. But they were all dead ends. Then several people pointed the police to a particular man, Joseph Smith.

Joseph was thirty-seven.

He was a mechanic with a criminal past.

Joseph was on probation for a drug offense. His other crimes included violence against women, kidnapping, and aggravated assault.

Joseph’s co-workers told the police that Joseph’s mannerisms and clothing matched the person in the footage. Also, he was under the influence of narcotics at work a day after Carlie disappeared.

Joseph hadn’t shown up for his shift the day before.

Meanwhile, the police had noticed a suspicious pale yellow station wagon on the security footage. That car pulled into the car wash a few minutes before Carlie was abducted.

Joseph Received a Visit From The Police

So the police visited Joseph’s house.

Joseph had recently been kicked out by his wife, with whom he had three daughters. He was squatting at his friend’s house.

Joseph said he was with a friend on the day Carlie disappeared.

The police then asked Joseph to pull up his sleeves. They realized he had tattoos on his forearms, like the man in the video. He also said he borrowed a pale yellow car the day Carlie disappeared.

The authorities searched Joseph’s car.

They found drugs inside.

Joseph was arrested for violating his probation terms. And the police worked to gather concrete evidence against him in Carlie’s disappearance.

Then Joseph confessed to his brother John whilst in custody. He said he had kidnapped and ‘had rough sex’ with eleven-year-old Carlie.

Joseph had killed Carlie. He told John where he dumped Carlie’s body.

Carlie’s Body Had Been Dumped Behind a Church

John called the authorities and directed them to where Carlie’s body was. Carlie’s body was in a wooded area behind a church.

Carlie’s body was naked from the waist down. She had a deep ligature mark on her neck. And there were abrasions on the side of her body, which showed that she was dragged.

She had linear marks on both her wrists, indicating that she had been tied up at some point.

An autopsy on Carlie’s body revealed that her hymen was damaged. The damage was caused by penetration.

Carlie’s final cause of death was ligature strangulation.

Further test results revealed that Joseph’s DNA was present on Carlie’s body.

The investigators searched the yellow car that Joseph had borrowed. They found Carlie’s hair strands and clothes fibers inside.

The Aftermath

Joseph was charged with Carlie’s murder, assault of a minor, kidnapping, etc.

Joseph stated that he killed Carlie because he had discovered that his wife didn’t want him back. He was very high on drugs and angry when he met Carlie.

So Joseph abducted her, raped her, and killed her.

Joseph was found guilty of first-degree murder and other charges.

He was sentenced to death by lethal injection for murder and life without parole for the other crimes.

Joseph died in prison in 2021.

In a sad turn of events, Susan died from an overdose in 2017.

“The void of Carlie not being a part of her life became a huge scar on her heart and a big missing puzzle piece…

She now has peace that she is with her baby girl, Carlie.” — Susan’s friend

My partner and I started a true crime YouTube Channel. Check out the videos HERE.

Sources:, EWU Crime Storytime, TruRed CRIME

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