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Guilty on all 3 counts in child's murder

Former mechanic convicted of murder, kidnapping, sexual battery

Joseph Smith sits stoically as the jury foreman reads the guilty verdicts against him.


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SARASOTA, Florida (CNN) -- It took five hours of deliberation Thursday for a jury to return guilty verdicts on murder, kidnapping and sexual battery charges for Joseph Smith in the February 2004 abduction and slaying of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.

Smith, his hair slicked back and wearing a gray suit, pursed his lips and nodded as the jury foreman read the verdicts. Now, Smith's attorney, who said he made a last-minute tactical decision to waive his right to a closing statement, must focus on saving his client from lethal injection.

Sentencing is scheduled for November 28.

Smith, a 39-year-old father of three daughters, was out of jail on probation when he was seen February 1, 2004, leading Carlie by the arm away from a car wash parking lot. (Read about Smith's arrest)

Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, had strong words for the justice system that allowed the former auto mechanic to walk the streets in the first place.

"He should've never been out of jail. The law has to change," she said in tears during a news conference after the verdict was announced. "I lost one of the most precious things to me in my life because of an animal, a disgusting, perverted animal."

Smith had a history of run-ins with the law. In 1993 he pleaded no contest to an aggravated battery charge, and in 1997 he was arrested on a kidnapping charge in Manatee County, Florida.

He was acquitted on the kidnapping charge. The alleged victim told police he grabbed her as she was walking down the street and threatened to "cut her if she failed to remain quiet." A passing vehicle stopped and intervened, enabling her to flee, she told police.

Smith was convicted in 1997 of carrying a concealed weapon and again in 2001 for heroin possession and attempting to obtain controlled substances by fraudulent means, according to his arrest record from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Like Schorpen, Carlie's father raised questions after his daughter's murder as to why Smith was a free man despite his criminal record. He asked Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in February to look into the matter.

When Smith was charged with Brucia's murder, he already was in a Sarasota jail on unrelated drug possession and probation violation charges.

Asked Thursday what she would say in her victim's impact statement, designed to sway the jury's sentencing decision, Schorpen replied, "You'll have to wait and see." She bitterly added that Smith is "going to get more years on appeal than my daughter had in life." (Watch Smith could get the death penalty -- 2:32)

Schorpen thanked the jury for its decision and told reporters she was going to visit her father, who had been watching the proceedings on television.

Smith was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and capital sexual battery on the eighth day of his trial. Thursday's conviction carries a potential death penalty. (Watch Smith as the verdict is handed down -- 1:52)

Carlie's abduction captured national attention when police disseminated a videotape from a security camera outside a car wash. The video showed the blonde, blue-eyed girl being led away, with little struggle, by a tattooed man in a blue mechanic's jumpsuit. She was walking from a friend's house and was a half mile from home. (Read the probable cause affidavitexternal link)

Police recovered her half-naked body four days later a few miles from the car wash on property owned by a church.

Smith pleaded not guilty, but the prosecution presented DNA and fiber samples suggesting otherwise. Particularly damning was the testimony of Smith's brother, John, who told jurors that Joseph confessed during a jailhouse conversation, then later on the phone. (Full story)

Of the video, John Smith said tearfully, "When I see him reach for the girl, I knew it was him."

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