After two years, family’s anguish hasn’t subsided

Many in the Bay area remember the shock and disbelief that was first felt two years ago upon hearing of the slaying of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia that took place in Sarasota. Now her killer, Joseph Smith, is asking not for his freedom but for his life to be spared.

Smith’s request is just another chapter in the emotional anguish that Brucia’s family has suffered since her death. Her mother, Susan Schorpen, is being held in the Pinellas County Jail for prostitution and drug possession charges. She is also in the grips of a drug addiction that she has been battling for many years, which has been given attention in the local media.

In 2004, Schorpen also lost custody of her 7-year-old son, and just two weeks ago on Feb. 1, the day of the two-year anniversary of Brucia’s death, Schorpen found out that her brother was killed in a car accident the previous evening, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Brucia’s stepfather, Steven Kansler, has not had it too easy, either. He was arrested just months after Brucia’s death for domestic battery against Schorpen. The emotional toll that the loss of Brucia has taken is all too present for this family – and is magnified even more since they are in the public eye.

Smith said that he does not want to bring any more pain to his family by being executed, and through life imprisonment, he claimed he could lead his children in a positive way. For many, actions speak louder than words, especially for the family that has been going through the pain of the aftershocks that Smith’s actions have left.

“It doesn’t bring Carlie back,” Kansler said to the Associated Press. “I’ll be happy when I see him die.”

It is definitely understandable that Brucia’s family would feel this way, as their brutal loss is one that many cannot – and will hopefully never have to – imagine. Yet justice for Smith has been decided by a jury of his peers that believes he should get the death penalty, as was decided in a 10-2 vote in December. On the other side of the coin, what if Smith has changed and believes that the rest of his life would be served well by life in prison so he can still be on this earth to impact his family?

However, Smith robbed Brucia of the chance to do the same for her family, possibly influencing her mother to pull out of her deep drug addiction. There are two sides to this story, and the public can only watch and wait for the final decision on March 15, as Smith’s fate lies in the hands of a judge.