The tattooed mechanic charged with kidnapping and killing an 11-year-old girl whose abduction was caught on a car wash surveillance camera was ordered held without bond on Saturday as the community formed a makeshift memorial outside the victim's home.
Joseph P. Smith waived his first court appearance in the slaying of Carlie Brucia, a day after her body was pulled from thick underbrush in a church parking lot.
The ranch house where Carlie lived was covered Saturday in white sheeting to protect the family's privacy. Dozens of mourners drifted by throughout the day, leaving flowers, small stuffed animals and notes.
Leticia Galvan of Sarasota left a string of purple rosary beads that she had been planning to give to one of her children. "I looked at the rosary and they are her (Carlie's) favorite color -- purple," Galvan said.
Grief counselors gathered at McIntosh Middle School Saturday to console Carlie's classmates. The slaying hit particularly hard because of the video capturing some of the last moments of the girl's life, said Robin Maranelli, head of student services for Sarasota County schools.
"It makes it very real ... we saw it happen," Maranelli said.
The New York Post says in its Saturday editions that Carlie apparently put up a desperate fight against her abductor before being killed.
The newspaper cites a sources close to the investigation as saying, "The initial review of the body indicates she put up a real struggle before she died. She fought desperately. She put up a huge fight."
The Post source added that Carlie was killed within a few hours of her kidnapping - and that cops had an encounter with Smith at about 10 o'clock that night near the thick underbrush where the victim's body was found.
Patrolling cops spotted Smith's Buick station wagon - believed to have been used in the abduction - parked illegally under an overpass off I-75, the source said. When they spotted the auto mechanic and Brooklyn native returning to his car after emerging from some thick underbrush, they asked him what he was doing.
Smith, who has been charged with murder and kidnapping, "said he went to (urinate) - and the cops let him go," said the source.
The next morning, Smith showed up late for his job - and was acting "strangely," the source said.
"He kept washing his hands over and over even though they were clean," the source noted. "And he told his boss that he might have to leave the state at any time."
A longtime friend and business partner of Smith is quoted in Saturday's Miami Herald as saying Smith, suffering from depression and drug abuse for more than a decade, apparently snapped after his wife told him their marriage was over.
"It was only a week ago he was all excited because he thought they might be getting back together,'' said Ed Dinyes, 47, who co-owned Saurus Auto with Smith. "Lucy told him that Sunday that it wasn't going to happen.''
Sunday was the day Carlie was abducted as she took a shortcut home through the car wash parking lot.
Investigators refused to say exactly how Carlie was killed or whether she had been raped. The arrest report said only that she died "as a result of homicidal violence."
Sheriff's officials and the medical examiner's office did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Saturday, and no police briefings were immediately planned.
"We now stand ready to complete our obligation, and assure you that he will pay the ultimate price for what he did to her," said Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Bell said Friday.
On Friday, investigators in white coveralls searched the area around the Central Church of Christ where Carlie's body was found, and Carlie's friends and family gathered outside the church. Her stepfather, Steven Kansler, and some friends knelt in a prayer circle.
Hundreds mourned Carlie at a Friday evening prayer vigil.
"She's in a better place. She got there in a horrific manner, but now she's watching me all the time," said her father, Joe Brucia.
Smith, 37, is believed to be the man seen on the surveillance video in a mechanic's shirt with a name patch, leading Carlie away by the arm Sunday as she walked home from a slumber party. Investigators said the man on the tape had tattoos on both forearms. Smith has many tattoos on his arms.
The kidnapping set off a frantic search for the girl, and the tape was beamed across the nation as Carlie's family and authorities pleaded for her safe return.
Investigators said they were led to Smith after a tipster identified him as the man in the video. Authorities said he had the Buick station wagon that was seen in the surveillance footage shortly before the kidnapping.
Joe Brucia said Friday he wants to know why Smith was out on the street, instead of behind bars. Brucia says judges made some "questionable" decisions in letting him go free.
Smith has been arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993, according to state records. He was arrested in 1997 in Manatee County on kidnapping and false imprisonment charges, but was acquitted a year later.
He served 17 months in state prison for heroin possession and prescription drug fraud and was released on New Year's Day 2003. He was arrested eight days later on a cocaine possession charge and was placed on probation for three years. He also was placed on probation for aggravated battery in 1993 and heroin charges in 1999.
A state Department of Corrections official said Thursday that a probation officer had asked a judge on Dec. 30 to declare Smith in violation of his probation because he had not paid all his fines and court costs.
Probation official Joe Papy said Circuit Judge Harry Rapkin declined to find Smith in violation, which could have returned him to jail.
An aide to Smith's public defender, Adam Tebrugge, declined comment Thursday.
Linda Thompson, who lives next door to the Smith family, described Smith as a good father to his three daughters. She remembered him playing with them in the yard, buying them a puppy and building a goldfish pond for them in the front of the house.
"That's the Joe we saw, so when this started it was hard to believe that there's a different side," Thompson said.
Carlie's friends said the blonde, blue-eyed girl idolized Jennifer Lopez and enjoyed going to the mall and hanging out with friends. She had a cat named Charlie and a 6-year-old half brother and a 10-year-old stepbrother.
"She was loving and caring. She doesn't like to see other people hurt. She'd be really crying if this was one of us or someone else she knows," said Tiffany Meeks, a friend at school who placed flowers along a memorial at the car wash. "It's just hard to talk about."
A public memorial service for Carlie was being planned Tuesday night outside Central Church of Christ.