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Suspect arrested in Florida missing girl case

Security camera tape shows man leading away 11-year-old girl

Carlie Brucia, 11, has been missing since Sunday; Joseph P. Smith is being held as a suspect in her disappearance.
Carlie Brucia, 11, has been missing since Sunday; Joseph P. Smith is being held as a suspect in her disappearance.

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CNN's Susan Candiotti reports on the arrest of Joseph P. Smith.
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The FBI and NASA are enhancing images from the security camera.
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Video camera catches abduction of Carlie Brucia.
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CNN's Soledad O'Brien talks to Joe Brucia, the father of the 11-year-old girl.
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Anyone with tips on Carlie Brucia call 888-382-6237.
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SARASOTA, Florida (CNN) -- A suspect is in custody in the disappearance of 11-year-old-Carlie Brucia, who went missing while walking home from a friend's house Sunday, authorities said Wednesday.

Joseph P. Smith, 37, was arrested on drug possession charges Tuesday after telephone tips identified him as a possible suspect in the case, Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill told a press conference. The girl has not been found.

"Please consider this as a focus, to find Carlie and bring her home," said Capt. Jeff Bell, the lead detective in the case.

A law enforcement source told CNN that Smith was not cooperating with investigators.

Late into the night, police were seen searching Smith's home, as well as a field with tall grass behind the residence.

Carlie's disappearance led to an Amber Alert issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday. The story was broadcast nationally because the girl's abduction was recorded by a surveillance camera in the parking lot behind a car wash.

Smith is suspected of abducting Carlie Sunday night, although he has not been charged.

"We have strong evidence to suggest he is the perpetrator," Bell said.

Smith was arrested on charges of possessing cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

He has a criminal history dating to 1993 in the Sarasota area, including numerous arrests on drug charges, and charges of kidnapping/false imprisonment, felony aggravated battery and domestic violence.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Smith has served time for a number of drug-related crimes, including heroin possession. He was released from prison in January 2003 and is on probation as a drug offender, according to the department's Web site.

Authorities also are searching Smith's car, a tan 1992 Buick Century station wagon they believe was used in the suspected abduction.

Officials pleaded for continued help from the community to locate Carlie, asking people to call in with information that might indicate where Smith traveled between Sunday and Tuesday.

In the videotape, recorded Sunday night just after 6:20, Carlie is seen being approached by a white man in some kind of a work uniform. He briefly speaks to her as she hesitates, then takes her by the forearm and leads her away.

Investigators said Tuesday they believed the suspect planned the kidnapping.

"If you look at that video and you look at her reactions, you look at his mannerisms and what he does ... there is a possibility that he was aware that she was there and had every intent of confronting her in that location," said Maj. Kevin Gooding of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

Initial enhancement of the digital images by NASA and the FBI yielded some clues, said Carl Whitehead, special agent in charge of the FBI's Tampa office.

Along with tattoos on the man's forearms, investigators saw a name patch on his uniform. "It appears to be a short name, maybe three or four letters," Whitehead said. Smith has multiple tattoos on his forearms, chest and back, officials said.

Before the announcement, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he had spoken to Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, "to say that the resources of the [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] are being brought to bear to find her child."

Callers have phoned in "well over 400 leads," Balkwill said.

Balkwill made a plea Wednesday morning to anyone who might be holding Carlie hostage. "Please turn Carlie over to the nearest convenience store, bank, any location. On behalf of the family, please let her go."

Whitehead said the bureau had added $25,000 to the original award, raising it to $50,000 for anyone who provides information "for a successful resolution of this matter."

Schorpen sent out an emotional message to her daughter at an early evening news conference.

"Carlie, I love you. If you can call, I have this phone on me at all times, call home," she sobbed, clutching her mobile telephone and a large gray cat. "I'm begging and pleading, please bring my daughter home."

A family friend addressed the abductor. "If you have anything in your heart ... please let that child go and let her come home. You're destroying this family," she said.

Authorities asked anyone with any information, no matter how trivial, to share it with investigators.

CNN's Susan Candiotti in Miami and John Zarrella in Sarasota contributed to this report.


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