Why Was Carlie Suspect On the Street?

02/09/2004 AT 10:36 AM EST

As people around the country come to grips with the horrific murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia last week, the state of Florida is now under fire for its handling of Joseph P. Smith, the primary suspect in the case.

Brucia was caught on a surveillance videotape of being led away from a car wash in Sarasota on Feb. 1. The tape shows her following a man in a mechanic's uniform that is believed to be Smith, 37. Brucia's body was recovered in a wooded area nearby early Friday morning.

Smith, an unemployed mechanic, has been in and out of prison for the past decade, and was on probation following an arrest for narcotics in January 2003. Now, some people are questioning why Smith was not incarcerated.

His lengthy rap sheet dates back to 1993 when he was arrested for an attack on woman in Sarasota. Smith broke her nose with a motorcycle helmet and served 60 days for aggravated battery, the Associated Press reports.

Since that incident Smith has been on probation almost constantly.

His other crimes include charges of concealed weapons, heroin possession and prescription fraud, but it was his arrest in 2003 that could have sent him back to prison. Instead, a scoring system used by judges to determine sentences found Smith eligible for probation.

Smith reportedly told a witness that he kidnapped and murdered Brucia, AP reports.

Joe Brucia, Carlie's father, has pleaded with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to look into the Smith case. Brucia wants to know why Smith was free despite numerous arrests.

Ed Dinyes, a onetime business partner of Smith's, said both Smith and the state were at fault. "Maybe (Smith) deserves to die for what he's done, but the state should have to pay a price, too," Dinyes tells the St. Petersburg Times.

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