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Joseph Peter SMITH





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 1, 2004
Date of arrest: 4 days after
Date of birth: March 17, 1966
Victim profile: Carlie Brucia, 11
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Sarasota County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on March 13, 2006

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Carlie Brucia's Killer Sentenced to Death for 11-Year-Old's Murder

Fox News

March 15, 2006

SARASOTA, Fla.  —  The 39-year-old man convicted of abducting, raping and killing 11-year-old Carlie Brucia was sentenced Wednesday to death by lethal injection.

"The scales of life and death tip unquestionably toward death," said Circuit Judge Andrew Owens.

Before announcing Joseph Smith's death punishment on the charge of first-degree murder, the judge said Smith faces life in prison without the possibility of parole for the assault and kidnapping of his victim.

Owens then agreed with the jury's earlier 10-to-2 recommendation that be executed. Smith showed no emotion as Owens read either sentence.

"Carlie endured unspeakable trauma, which began at the time of her kidnapping," the judge said before announcing the sentence. "The image of the defendant taking her arm and leading her away no doubt will forever be etched in our minds."

During the sexual and physical abuse Carlie was subjected to, the judge said, "at 11 years of age, there is no doubt she was aware of her dire predicament and that she had little or no hope of survival."

He added: "Her death was conscious less and pitiless ... calculated and premeditated."

The judge was required by law to give great weight to that recommendation when he makes his ruling but was not bound to that recommendation. Smith has 30 days to appeal the sentence and punishment meted out by the court.

Carlie's stepfather, Steven Kansler, buried his face in his hands as Owens read details of the crimes before sentencing Smith.

"I thought I'd feel a lot different," Kansler said afterward. "But it still hurts. It doesn't change anything. I just feel that Carlie has been heard. Her soul is gone now. Now it's just a matter of time to wait to watch Joe Smith die."

During a hearing last month, Smith tearfully apologized for his crimes, telling the judge that he took large amounts of heroin and cocaine in an attempt to kill himself on the day he abducted Brucia in 2004.

Smith said he did not remember much about that day and asked the judge to spare him for the sake of his family.

The abduction of Brucia was caught by a security camera. Her body was found four days after her disappearance on the grounds of a church in Sarasota.

Brucia's mother, Susan Schorpen, was not in the courtroom for the sentencing, as she is currently in a Florida jail on drug and prostitution charges. Schorpen has said the pain of losing her daughter led her to take drugs to numb the pain commit herself three times.


The abduction of Carlie Brucia

By David Krajicek

A Life Undone

The sum of Joseph Smith's prospects in life added up to zero as he sat in a car in Sarasota, Fla., on Feb. 1, 2004, with a bag of cocaine and a hypodermic needle in his lap.

After a decade as an on-again, off-again addict, Smith's drug habit was very much on again. As a result of his latest relapse, he had been run out of his comfortable home in North Sarasota by his wife and fired from his job as an auto mechanic.

Smith, 37, was flopping with friends who had loaned him their car, a 12-year-old Buick, so he could score his fix.

He found himself sitting in the car at 6:15 p.m. on that February Sunday on the well-traveled Bee Ridge Road, in southeast Sarasota, as the rest of the country was gathering in front of television sets to watch the kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Smith, alone with his cocaine, had nowhere to go in life. As a parolee and probationer, he surely understood that his relapse made a return to prison likely.

Maybe he had simply given up.

Some ex-cons drop all pretense of civilized behavior when their prospects run out. And so it was with Joseph Smith.

The streets were nearly abandoned at Super Bowl game time. But a figure walking on the sidewalk—a girl—caught his eye.

Her blonde hair was pulled back. She was wearing a tight red top and blue jeans. She toted a backpack. Now and then, the girl broke into a trot for a few steps, as though she were late for something.

Smith tracked the girl for a short time, then positioned his car to intercept her as she took a shortcut through an isolated spot behind a car wash.

He got out of the car and strode toward her. She tried to shy away.

But he grasped her firmly by the arm and led her away to the Buick for the last car ride she would ever have.

Typical Tween

The child's name was Carlie Brucia.

She was just 11 years old, born March 16, 1992. Carlie was a sixth-grader at Sarasota's McIntosh Middle School, just a few blocks from the site of her abduction.

At a fleshy 120 pounds, she could have been mistaken for an older teenager.

But she was a typical tween.

She loved the mall, and she adored singer/actress Jennifer Lopez. She was bubbly and animated, the sort of kid who liked to greet her girlfriends with big hugs.

Her parents, Susan Schorpen and Joe Brucia, met and married on Long Island, where Carlie was born. They split up before the girl took her first steps.

Schorpen took Carlie to Sarasota to be near her grandparents, and the child became a seasoned traveler at a young age on occasional airplane trips to New York to see her father.

Schorpen eventually remarried, and Carlie lived with her mother, stepfather and half-brother, Leif, in a modest house on McIntosh Road. She was walking home after a sleepover with friends at the home of Connie Arnold, at Bee Ridge and Lalani Boulevard.

She phoned her mother from the Arnold house at 6 p.m. to say that she was leaving to walk home.

The trip of just under a mile along the tree-lined Bee Ridge Road should have taken 15 or 20 minutes.

When she hadn't shown up by 6:30, her stepfather, Steven Kansler, called the Arnold home, then went looking for Carlie.

The girl had been missing just 10 minutes before her mother called 911.

Schorpen assumed authorities would immediately issue an Amber Alert for her daughter, to place the entire community on the lookout for the girl.

She was wrong.

Caught on Tape

The Manatee County Sheriff's Department declined to issue an alert since no one had witnessed the abduction. There was no way to know whether a crime had taken place, Schorpen was told.

Perhaps the girl had run away.

This is the Amber Alert bugaboo that vexes the loved ones of so many children who turn up missing—that makes some wonder whether alerts are issued selectively based upon the wealth or influence of the families of victims.

No alert was issued for Carlie Brucia even thought she fit the classic profile of the most endangered category of child victim of a stranger abduction.

Only about 100 such cases are reported each year. But nine out of 10 victims are females, half are sexually assaulted, and three out of four are killed within three hours.

As an alternative to an Amber Alert, the sheriff used a decidedly less high-tech investigatory tool: blood hounds. And for no particular reason, investigators chose to focus initially on the stepfather as a suspect.

The dogs tracked Carlie Brucia's scent from the Arnold home, along Bee Ridge to Evie's Car Wash, at 4735 Bee Ridge Road, where the trail ended.

Investigators noticed a motion-activated security camera at the back of the building, a spot that neighborhood kids often use as a short cut to the residential area behind it.

On a hunch, police contacted the firm's owner, Mike Evanoff, to see about looking at the security camera footage. But they didn't get around to viewing the tape until early Monday afternoon, about 18 hours after Carlie had disappeared.

The camera's memory indicated that it had been activated by motion at precisely 6:21 p.m. Sunday.

When Evanoff and police cued the device to that video snip, they were aghast at what they saw. Improbably, the camera had captured Carlie's abduction.

As she walked west across the car wash property, the girl was suddenly confronted by a man who strode boldly toward her, grabbed her right arm, spoke to her for a few seconds, then firmly led her away, off camera, toward a Buick station wagon that was also seen on the tape.

"We were all just stunned," Evanoff told reporters. "I wasn't really expecting to see what I saw. It was chilling."

"It's Joe Smith"

Kansler, the stepfather, was off the hook, and Manatee authorities finally got busy with an Amber Alert Monday evening.

The eerie video clip—rare graphic evidence of an abduction of an adolescent girl—soon was being shown on news programs across America.

The abductor, wearing a mechanic's uniform complete with a name tag, had heavily tattooed arms. He appeared to be about 5-foot-8 with a sturdy build and dark hair.

NASA and the FBI helped enhance the images, and investigators asked the public for tips.

They got 800 of them, including several with precisely the same message, according to police investigative notes.

"The person's name is Joe Smith," said one tipster, a friend who said he recognized Smith from the haircut and his gait.

A second "stated emphatically that (the) guy on video was definitely Joe Smith."

A third, a woman, said she was "100 percent sure (the) suspect is Joe Smith."

(It later came to light that the callers included Smith's former business partner, a former employer and a housemate.)

Police visited Smith's former home and spoke with his estranged wife, Luz Castrillon. She directed detectives to the place where he was staying. Police found drug paraphernalia there and arrested Smith as a probation violator.

Smith didn't have much to say.

But his hosts, Jeff and Naomi Pincus, were able to fill in a few blanks.

Jeff Pincus said Smith borrowed their yellow Buick station wagon on Sunday afternoon, a couple of hours before the Super Bowl. He said he would be back in 15 minutes. But he didn't show up until Monday morning, 16 hours later.

Pincus had checked the mileage before Smith left and when he returned. His pal had driven the car 382 miles.

And how did Smith seem when he finally returned home?

"Like he had a good night sleep or he's real happy," Pincus told detectives. "He just looked like he had a wonderful night."

Nothing in particular seemed to weigh on him.

Later that same day, Smith had paid a cordial visit to his wife and their three young daughters.

Castrillon said he seemed normal—the same old Joe.

Too Late

The search for Carlie Brucia was an American crime tableau that has become all too familiar.

Dozens of investigators worked the case while scores of volunteers scoured her neighborhood and stapled missing-girl posters far and wide.

City officials put up a $50,000 reward, saying the surveillance camera footage of the abduction had made it seem more personal. The mayor called Carlie "Sarasota's child."

Carlie's mother, Susan Schorpen, stood before news cameras and pleaded for the girl's safe return.

"I want to address my Carlie," she said. "I love you. I have this phone on at all times...I'm begging and pleading, please help me bring my daughter home."

"Carlie, if you can hear this, your mom's at home waiting for you," said the girl's father, Joe Brucia.

Even the police chimed in with personal messages to the girl. One lieutenant said, "Most of all, Carlie, do not give up."

TV news crews set up camp near the car wash, which was soon festooned with signs of support: "We miss you," "Come home soon," "We wish u were here" and "Our thoughts and prayers are with you."

But all the attention, all the tears, all the good wishes, all the reward money—it was all too late for Carlie Brucia.

She was dead by the time the Amber Alert was issued—dead, it seems likely, before the Super Bowl game had ended.

Family Meeting

Late on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 5, brother John Smith and Patricia Davis, their mother, paid a visit to Joe at Sarasota County Jail for a family meeting.

Joe Smith had not yet been charged with the murder, but John and the mother pressed him to come clean.

Over and over again, Patricia Davis looked her son in the eye and demanded, "Tell me where the girl is."

After repeated denials, he finally confessed.

"I really f——— up," Joe Smith whispered. He explained he had had a "far out" cocaine trip and didn't remember much of what had happened.

He admitted that he had "rough sex" with the child—using precisely the same phrase as Robert Chambers in the infamous Preppy Murder case in New York 20 years ago—and that he may have killed her.

He said he could direct his mother and brother to the body, concealed at a spot not far from the site of the abduction.

But he warned them not to go to the authorities, hoping he could use the location of the body as a bargaining chip. The brothers resurrected a childhood code to use over the phone, with "Station C" used to mean the location of Carlie's body.

This all led to one of the more peculiar amateur investigations in the recent annals of American crime.

John Smith later said he decided to conduct the search because "I was curious to see if anything he said was accurate."

Following Joe Smith's directions, John Smith and their mother, Patricia Davis, drove that same afternoon to the Central Church of Christ, at 6221 Proctor Road, just off I-75 and within 2 miles of the abduction site.

John Smith, who at the time weighed nearly 300 pounds, and his mother tried to look inconspicuous as they strolled the church property for signs of an adolescent corpse—"Station C."

When they failed to find anything, John and Joe Smith exchanged a series of phone calls that evening. During one conversation, Joe Smith suggested that John might be in line for the $50,000 reward if he found the body.

For a few crazy minutes, the brothers mulled over whether John could grab the money then designate it to benefit the killer's daughters.

But John Smith began to panic, believing that his phone conversations with his brother were being monitored. Remarkably, they weren't.

Second Search

Fearing criminal culpability, John Smith dropped a dime on his brother, calling the FBI.

At 9 p.m. that evening, Smith, Mrs. Davis, Sarasota Detective Toby Davis and FBI agents David Street and Leo Martinez returned to the church property for another search.

Still speaking with his brother, Joe Smith guided the group by phone from his jail cell. He said he remembered placing the body between two trees. The odd entourage focused on a small grove of Brazilian pepper trees not far from the church.

Finally, at near midnight, the body of Carlie Brucia revealed itself, in the grove beyond a chain-link fence. Patricia Davis wept so loudly that her son could hear her through the phone.

"John, tell mom I'm sorry," Joe Smith said. "I was not thinking right."

Smith may have been sorry, but forensic examination of the body indicated that had been merciless toward the child.

She had been raped vaginally and orally and was strangled by ligature—a garrote twisted tight around her neck. As a final insult, the body had then been dragged over scarring surfaces—blacktop, crushed rock, palmetto shrubs—to its makeshift resting place.

Coroners reckoned that she had been killed on the night of her abduction.

Carlie Brucia had been the archetype child victim of a stranger abduction: an adolescent female who was raped then soon murdered. 

Dr. Russell Vega, the medical examiner, said Carlie fought for her life. He found cuts and bruises on her arms, legs and left heel. She had struggled mightily in a losing battle with her attacker.

An Addict's Story

Joe Smith said drugs made him do it—that he hadn't been himself on Feb. 1 after shooting up a pure, potent strain of cocaine.

But then, Smith hadn't been himself for most of his adult life.

He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 17, 1966. Drugs and depression took hold early.

Smith said he was a heroin addict by age 19, but he was catholic in his narcotics habits—cocaine, crack, prescription opiate painkillers, speed.

He was a passable auto mechanic and was employed as often as not. But he had no self-control when it came to narcotics, and drug benders ended one job and one relationship after another.

Depression became his foil, the convenient enemy he could blame for his drug problem. But which came first, the addiction or the depression? In either case, his life entered a well-worn rut and stayed there.

After struggling with crack in New York in the 1980s, he tried to get a fresh start by moving to Florida in 1991. It didn't work.

He narrowly survived an overdose in 1993, and he spent most of the following decade in jail, on probation or in drug rehab, according to a profile by Brian Haas of the Bradenton, Fla., Herald. Between lockups, he managed to marry Castrillon and father three daughters.

In many ways, Smith embodied the American criminal justice dilemma over narcotics.

He was arrested more than a dozen times in Florida, mostly for felony drug violations. Under the law, he could have been locked up for long stretches. But again and again, he was allowed to plead no contest in exchange for probation, community supervision, house arrest or mandatory drug rehab.

At times, Smith was a functioning member of society, with a home, a family and a job. Probation officers seemed to like him; they wrote hopeful reports on his progress. And when he fell off the wagon, Smith often managed to convince a judge that he deserved another shot.

And he got plenty of them.

Oxycontin Jones

The final series of events in Joe Smith's long criminal history began when he was sentenced to six months of house arrest in March 2000 for a narcotics violation involving Oxycontin, an addictive prescription opiate used to treat chronic pain.

He attended rehab at Phoenix House that May as part of his sentence, but a month later his wife tipped his probation officer that Smith was again strung out on Oxycontin. She had 20 bottles of the pills as proof.

A judge opted to extend Smith's probation rather than lock him up, and a probation officer gave him glowing reports over the ensuing six months.

Smith opened then expanded his own car repair shop and was in "connubial bliss," as the officer put it, over the birth of a daughter.

"Definite improvement," the officer wrote about Smith in February 2001. "Coming up in the world."

But he was arrested and jailed that September after trying to pass a fraudulent prescription for Dilaudid, another addictive opiate.

Smith sat in jail for nearly 13 months, from Dec. 13, 2001, until Jan. 1, 2003. But just nine days after Smith was freed, police found him so high on cocaine that he had passed out in his car on a city street.

Rather than send Smith back to jail, Sarasota Circuit Judge Harry Rapkin extended his probation by three years. That August, Smith grabbed a knife and threatened to kill himself during an argument with his wife, and he was committed to a mental health facility.

Both his wife and his mother told authorities that Smith needed long-term psychiatric commitment. But he was out in less than a month.

Jobless and homeless, he flopped with the Pincuses and did odd jobs around the neighborhood to fund his boundless drug habit.

Smith frittered away one chance after another handed to him by the justice system. In the end, those second chances left him free to cross paths with poor Carlie Brucia on that Super Bowl Sunday in 2004.     

Florida criminal justice authorities have salved their guilt over Smith's charitable treatment by insisting that he exhibited no signs of being a violent sexual predator.

In fact, he had.

On July 1, 1997, Smith approached a 32-year-old woman outside a Sarasota convenience store to ask for help with a car that wouldn't start. She agreed, but someone in the store called police because he noticed a knife concealed in Smith's shorts.

Cops raced to the scene and interceded, finding both the knife and a can of pepper spray on Smith. His car was perfectly functional. He was leading her to a vehicle he did not own that was parked in a dark, remote spot.

A police lieutenant reported that Smith "intended to do great harm" by using "a ploy to get a young woman alone in her vehicle."

Once again, Smith got off easy—a year of probation.

Just four months later, he was accused of wielding a knife against a Bradenton woman, but he was acquitted by a jury in that case.

On Trial

The verdict was never seriously in doubt during Joe Smith's murder trial, held in the fall of 2005.

The car wash surveillance videotape, evidence from and about the borrowed car used in the abduction and the testimony extracted from his brother John about Joe's jailhouse confession all but sealed his fate.

After the two weeks of testimony, the jury of eight women and four men convicted of him of murder, kidnapping and sexual battery.

Most courtroom histrionics occurred during the penalty phase, when each side presented evidence as to whether Smith should live or die.

 "Carlie's future and life have been stolen from her and from her family," her paternal grandmother, Andrea Brucia, said in a written statement that was read aloud. "We will never know her as a teenager. Our family is forever broken. Our nightmares about what you've done to her — our hearts will never heal."

"I can no longer watch her grow," said the girl's mother, Susan Schorpen. "I can only imagine her in a wedding gown walking down the aisle."

Jurors wept along with Schorpen.

The prosecutors, assistant state attorneys Craig Schaeffer and Debra Johnes Riva, presented a long list of aggravating factors as weighing in favor of execution—not least that Smith was merciless in strangling the child.

Dr. Vega, the medical examiner, estimated that Smith choked Carlie for several minutes to kill her. This gave him time for a "substantial level of reflection" during the murder.

Smith's three attorneys, all court-appointed public defenders, tried to portray him as a sympathetic human being.

"Joe is a man with many good qualities," said attorney Carolyn DaSilva, "but he was unable to control his drug addiction."

"Wanted to Die"

Thirteen friends and acquaintances (but no immediate family members) spoke on behalf of Smith. There were no revelations about Mother Teresa moments in his life.

He loved animals. He once helped a girlfriend learn to drive. He gave gasoline to a biker whose tank was dry. He was nice to his niece. He worked cheap on cars.

Another of his lawyers, Adam Tebrugge, tried to cast Smith as something of a victim of lenient treatment and ineffective rehab commitments dating to 1992.

Tebrugge said, "The defendant repeatedly sought help for his problems, but was either denied help or received ineffective assistance for his problems."

In the end, the jury voted 10-2 in favor of execution after what jurors described as emotional deliberations.

Judge Andrew Owens was charged with making the final decision about Smith's fate, but under Florida law he was compelled to give the recommendation "great weight."

Joe Smith, who had gained considerable weight since his arrest, was given a chance to stand before Judge Owens and make his case for life.

"I do not ask for mercy for myself," said Smith, weeping. "The only thing I can see to give me a life sentence is for my family. I do not want to see them hurt any further."

Smith said he was trying to kill himself on that Super Bowl Sunday after a lifetime of drug addiction.

"I just wanted to die that day," he said.

No Shouts of Joy

Judge Owens granted his wish.

On March 16, 2006, the day before Carlie's birthday, he condemned Smith to death by injection.

"Her death was conscienceless and pitiless and undoubtedly unnecessarily torturous," Owens said. "The scales of life and death tilt unequivocally on the side of death."

Smith, in a prison jumpsuit, stared straight ahead and belied little emotion. Carlie's kin also were subdued.

There were no shouts of joy.

"A lot of people probably want to ask me am I happy with the verdict," the girl's aunt, Laurie Brucia, later said. "I don't think you are ever happy. Happy would be having Carlie right beside me. And giving her a hug and a kiss, watching her grow up and celebrating her 13th birthday tomorrow, which will never happen. That would be happiness."

Smith, one of 374 men on Death Row in Florida, is biding his time at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Fla.

He must be eating well. His weight has ballooned even further to 219 pounds, more than 40 pounds heavier than the day of his arrest. His most recent prison mug shot shows him with hog-jowl cheeks.

On average, a condemned Florida convict waits nearly 13 years to die.

Smith shouldn't expect visits from his wife and daughters in the interim.

Five months after Smith was sentenced, Luz Castrillon won a divorce decree that barred him from having any contact with his daughters. Castrillon sold their house and dropped out of sight.

Most Unseemly

Few of the players in the Carlie Brucia murder drama emerged as sympathetic figures.

John Smith, the snitch and brother of the killer, also admitted to a long battle with drug addiction. Even Connie Arnold, whose house Carlie was walking home from when abducted, has since been arrested for trying to buy cocaine in her neighborhood.

But perhaps most unseemly was Susan Schorpen, the victim's mother.

She had had a troubled life even before the murder, including a drug arrest in 1995, when Carlie was 3, and a domestic violence collar in 1999.

Just months before the girl was killed, Schorpen was reported missing by her husband, Steven Kansler. When she finally turned up, she told authorities she had had a relapse of her drug problem.

Things only got worse after the murder—beginning with gaudy gaffes.

Schorpen showed up at a somber Valentine's Day 2004 memorial service for daughter—an event attended by hundreds of Sarasotans—in a white stretch limousine.

She then neglected to attend the first week of Smith's trial. When she did briefly show up, she said she did so to deny that she had known Joe Smith through drug circles—a rumor that had been going around Sarasota.

She had two film producers at her side—she met them at a Sarasota hotel karaoke night—and treated the brief court appearance as a marketing tool for their movie project.

Schorpen was also showing off a new figure; she said she lost 70 pounds after her daughter was killed.

She was asked by reporters to talk about Carlie but brushed them off.

"You'll have to watch the movie," she said.

Downward Spiral

Schorpen's life has continued to play out in the newspapers in the years since Carlie's murder.

In August 2004, her son, Leif, 7, was taken from her when the state determined that Schorpen's chronic drug use made her an unfit mother. Weeks later, Steven Kansler was arrested for domestic violence after a fight with Schorpen.

In July 2005, Schorpen's mother, Eileen, evicted the woman from the McIntosh Road home, which the mother owned.

Authorities said the house had become a drug hangout. Police were called there repeatedly, including one night when a man was stabbed in a drug dispute while Susan Schorpen was passed out.

Eileen Schorpen told reporters she had had enough.

"I can't pay her bills anymore," she said. "She's got to get out on her own." Months later, Mrs. Schorpen died of cancer.

In January 2006, Susan Schorpen was accused of stealing $300 cash, a $5,000 ring and a credit card from her father, Egil Schorpen. The father also said he gave his daughter a check for $800 to pay for drug rehab, but she cashed it to buy narcotics.

On Jan. 19, 2006, she was arrested for prostitution in St. Petersburg, Fla. She served several months in jail and was locked up on the day that Joe Smith was sentenced to death for murdering her daughter.

In June 2006, she was arrested again for prostitution in Manatee County after agreeing to perform oral sex for $20. Police found a crack pipe in her bra. Schorpen got 90 days for that conviction.

She told a judge at sentencing that her drug problem and depression had raged since Carlie's murder. Schorpen promised to do her time, then move to the Florida Keys to make a fresh start.

Carlie's Legacy

After Carlie Brucia was raped and murdered, the Manatee County sheriff's department tacitly acknowledged that an Amber Alert might have helped saved the girl's life.

The national system to quickly alert the media and public about missing children is said to have led to the recovery of 200 individuals.

Some jurisdictions have been criticized for using too many alerts, often in cases that involve runaways or parental custody disputes. Officials fear that the public will become numb by too many Amber Alerts.

At a minimum, a federal standard suggests that before an Amber Alert is issued law enforcers must confirm that an abduction of someone 17 or younger has occurred; that the child or teen is at serious risk, and that there is sufficient descriptive information of the child, the captor or the captor's vehicle.

Carlie Brucia did not qualify for an Amber Alert under those criteria.

Yet various local jurisdictions often issue alerts even in cases where the standards are not met.

Manatee County will now be one of them.

Sheriff Charlie Wells changed policy on media notification in cases like that of Carlie Brucia. He ordered his department to notify the local media immediately when parents believe their missing children are in danger.

Such cases will not qualify for a statewide or national Amber Alert, but the local media will be alerted and a detective will be assigned, said Maj. Connie Shingledecker.

She said, "My feeling is, always err on the side of caution."

Florida's probation officers are now taking the same approach.

A new, zero-tolerance policy toward probation violators has also taken hold in the state. County jail populations have swelled as a result.



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