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Carlie Brucia's Body Found

Aired February 6, 2004 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joseph Smith is under arrest for the abduction and murder of Carlie.


LARRY KING, HOST: The awful words nobody wanted to hear. The lifeless body of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia found early this morning behind a church in Sarasota, Florida, five days after her abduction was caught on a surveillance camera. A terrible end to a story that's gripped the nation this past week.

Tonight, the latest on this tragedy with Carlie's stepfather, Steve Kansler. CNN's Kris Osborn on the scene in Sarasota, Florida. John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted," his own young son, Adam, was kidnapped and murdered in Florida in 1991. Later, Brenda van Dam, her 7-year-old daughter Danielle was kidnapped from her California home in 2002 and murdered and Court TV's Nancy Grace, the former prosecutor. All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

First, let's get an immediate update on this story and go to CNN correspondent Kris Osborn. Kris Osborn on the scene in Sarasota -- Kris.

KRIS OSBORN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Larry. Several key headlines today, not the least of which of course is the discovery of young Carlie's body. 11-year-old Carlie found about two miles away from here in an area that fast became seen as the crime scene itself. Investigators combed the area for additional evidence. In addition to that as well the state announced earlier this afternoon that Mr. Smith will be formally charged by the state of Florida with both aggravated assault and capital murder. They moved pretty quickly from having him in custody to then saying with pretty clear sense of confidence he was responsible for both the kidnapping and the murder.

Several detectives said to me today that is in part due to an accumulation of DNA evidence including DNA found in that '92 Buick Century as well as statements, key statements, one of them being, according to a probable cause affidavit, Smith himself reportedly told a witness he had murdered and kidnapped young Carlie. That witness then helped lead investigators to the body. So despite this very conclusive development today, investigators emphasized they are still very much in this ongoing investigation -- Larry.

KING: Steve Kansler, the stepfather of the victim, was there ever a point here in these five days where you gave up?

STEVE KANSLER, CARLIE'S STEPFATHER: No, sir. We always had faith and all that we'd find her and once we found he was arrested we thought our hopes were better, we had a better chance of finding her.

KING: How were you informed of the tragedy?

KANSLER: The chief investigator and the major also came to my house in the middle of the night and told us they had found the body and that it was Carlie.

KING: How is your wife doing?

KANSLER: It's tough. She's up and down. Emotions are high. All in all, she's standing tough.

KING: Were you very close to your stepdaughter, Steve?

KANSLER: Yes. I didn't consider her my stepdaughter. I've been with Carlie for almost nine years, she's 11-year-old so basically it's her whole life.

KING: You would usually pick her up, is that correct?


KING: So what happened that day?

KANSLER: That day I wasn't home. I had actually gone out with my son to a farm where he likes to go play, and Carlie wasn't aware that I was on the way home and we just missed her.

KING: By minutes?

KANSLER: If that. It couldn't have been no more than a couple of minutes at the most.

KING: John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted," who has gone through this tragedy himself and has covered so many of these tragedies, in fact, tomorrow night, his program will deal with this. Before we talk with John, we have some clip from that show tomorrow night. Let's watch it and then talk with John.


JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED" (voice-over): Here's the video the nation hasn't seen, a bright, lovely girl, happy and celebrating with her family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's outgoing. She's wonderful. She's silly.

WALSH: But now, this great kid is gone.


KING: John, it seems there is no -- do have you any -- any explanation for this?

WALSH: Well, I have a definite explanation. This guy's a predator who has been arrested 13 times here in the state of Florida. He should have never been out, Larry. First, I want to say to Steve, and I talked to Susan today and to Joe, the biological father of Carlie, my prayers are with you and my heart goes out to you and you've been incredibly strong throughout this, but getting back to the point, this scumbag, Smith, should have never been on the streets.

He violated his parole this year. He tested positive with heroin in his urine. His parole officer says this guy's got a long track record. He beat a rap one time, he got acquitted of attempted kidnapping even though the witness told the jury that he told her that he'd slit his throat. He started as a peeping Tom. He should have never been on the street. Little Carlie never had a chance. He put her in his sight, he was a predator, he shouldn't have been on the streets and he grabbed her.

KING: Had he had a history, John, of doing this before, of being a predator?

WALSH: Well, he started -- his second arrest was that of a peeping Tom. And I've caught so many pedophiles, and so many of them start as peeping Toms. He was acquitted for kidnapping as I just mentioned to you. He tried to grab a woman. He said to her he'd slit her throat and he got out. I don't know what was wrong with that jury but he was acquitted. I feel he's probably done this before. I don't know about murdering children, but you know, when we get into this and learn more about this guy, not only has he been arrested 13 times, I'm sure he probably has a history that we just don't know about.

KING: Kris Osborn, do we know why he was out on probation?

OSBORN: Well, it's interesting, Larry because in 2001, Smith was spending a year in prison on a heroin conviction. As John mentioned, he also, in 1997, was acquitted on a kidnapping charge after according to the police report in that case, he, as John mentioned, threatened to cut a woman's throat if she said anything.

Also in 1993 he was arrested for aggravated assault. A long, criminal history. He was let out on parole, they call it probation in the state of Florida with a series of stipulations and picked up this past Tuesday on an unrelated drug charge. However, one of the things authorities do recognize is that a number of tips led them to be suspicious that, in fact, he may be that person in the surveillance video. A lot of talk about that video from investigators saying it was pretty helpful.

KING: Will that be a key part of the trial if there's no -- there could be just a plea of guilty and no trial but will that video surveillance be important? Obviously.

OSBORN: Quite possibly, Larry, absolutely. We heard initially about the mechanic's uniform and the tattoos and the initial efforts to identify him. In fact, the person in the video was Joseph Smith. In fact, we even heard that NASA experts were going to seek to improve the resolution of the video quality to make the positive identification.

And then today, after the body was found, we didn't hear about that video a whole lot which leads one to consider there must be a lot of additional evidence that led them to feel very decisively that in fact Joseph Smith was responsible for both the kidnapping and the murder. So this video will likely come into trial if there is one but at very least, it was key in helping them locate Smith.

KING: Steve, will you describe the area for us? It appears that nobody was around when he came by and grabbed her by the arm. Where was that?

KANSLER: There's a miniature golf and a driving range and it's a car wash all in the same area. When Carlie was abducted, there were people on the driving range at that time. There were people in the neighborhood.

KING: To your knowledge, Steve, people who saw her abducted in addition to the camera?

KANSLER: I would hope someone did see something, because she was abducted from the back of the car wash, and you can see the golf course right from where she was. So if anyone was back on this side where they putt, they would have been able to see something.

KING: John, can it be as easy as that as you're just walking and someone grabs you by the arm and suddenly you're gone?

WALSH: You know, we saw firsthand from that video, Larry, how chilling it is. That little girl never had a chance. And I can't emphasize it enough. That guy's a predator. She could have been talked to, I'm sure her mother and her loving stepdad talk to her about strangers and all of those things but you can see from the video, she didn't have a chance, and by the way, the video will be crucial.

They do have DNA in that car and tonight you're going to air it later on in the program, a crucial piece of video that no one's seen that the sheriff's department released to us and we've given it to you -- we'll be airing it tomorrow night -- of his car pulling up to that car wash. So now we have the video of the car there, placing the kidnapping vehicle there and we have the video for him, but I think all of America learned a lesson from that video just how easy it is for these predators to grab a kid.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.



JOEY BRUCIA, CARLIE'S FATHER: As far as this individual being out on the street, I really find the decisions made by some of these judges very questionable, and I would ask the governor to look into this. In my opinion, he should have never been out on the street, and all you in the media, if you could help put pressure in this endeavor, to try and make sure this doesn't happen to another child, it would be greatly appreciated by parents all over the world.


KING: That's Joe, the birth father. I spoke with him today and so did John Walsh, who also spoke to the mother. Two things we should clear up, we mentioned at the beginning that John Walsh's son, we mentioned 1991. It was 1981 that his tragedy, Adam was killed, and of course, the suspect is still the alleged killer. There has been no trial as yet. So, we should use that word more, because you don't want to preconvict in this country despite the strong opinion of the guests.

Steve, is it true that your daughter, we'll call it your daughter because that's the way you feel about her, used to watch programs like "America's Most Wanted" and say this could never happen to her?

KANSLER: That is true.

KING: So, therefore, was she careful about her surroundings?

KANSLER: Carlie usually was very careful, always aware of what she was doing, but then again Carlie was only an 11-year-old girl. You know.

KING: John, I know they're trying to rush that tape of the car incident. You mentioned your people are trying to get it over to our people in Atlanta. We hope we make it before the top of the hour. We sure appreciate that.

Now, here's a girl who's watched your show, who says it could never happen to her and her father just tells us is careful. What do you make of it?

WALSH: Well, lots of kids know the rules, and the Justice Department has said many, many times that the No. 1 victim category are young girls from the ages of 10 to 14, so she fit right into that profile. But I want to stress it again, we teach kids about the safety zone, not to get close to cars, not to be lured by predators who come up with all kinds of tips or all kinds of tricks like police badges and everything.

But I want to make this very clear. This guy should have never been out on the streets. Carlie, no matter what she knew, no matter how many times her parents talked to her, she never had a chance, Larry, because that predator was there and you saw on that chilling tape how he grabbed her hand. And when his parole officer, his probation officer said to that judge, take him back, put him back in prison, judge. And that was just a few months ago, that judge let him go on the streets. That guy should have been in jail.

But, I still believe in education. I still think we have to talk to our children, we have to constantly reinforce that these people are cunning and there has to be a safety zone. She didn't have a chance, just like Steve said, she never had a chance.

KING: Kris, had they talked to the last judge who released him?

OSBORN: I'm not sure, Larry. What I can tell you is that tomorrow there was scheduled to be a first appearance hearing at which point Smith would potentially go before the judge and be given -- told his rights, et cetera. However, his attorneys have waived his right to appear. So, Smith is not expected to attend there tomorrow.

At this hearing tomorrow, however, what this first appearance will do is the state of Florida requires that anybody who is brought in for a crime such as this must go before a judge or have the opportunity to go before a judge within 24 to 48 hours. Smith has waived his right to do that, however, the judge will determine if there's probable cause to continue to detain Smith. And it's every expectation there is, until there might be an indictment, Larry.

KING: I mean, Kris, the last judge who released him the last time. Or was that the parole board that released him? When he violated probation, did a judge not release him, then? Who was that judge and has he been questioned?

OSBORN: It was a judge.

KING: I'm asking, Kris and then we'll go to, John -- Kris.

OSBORN: Larry, in that particular case when somebody is let out after a conviction of some kind, what happens is there will be a probation, which will be a series of checks and balances. And what I understand is that there were authorities who were under the suspicion that the person on that surveillance video may indeed be Mr. Smith, went to the home as a result as a number of tips...

KING: I don't mean...

OSBORN: ...and found him in possession of cocaine and some other drug paraphernalia which then gave them legal justification to bring him in and then thus confirm their suspicion that it was him.

KING: No, I get that. But John Walsh, the judge before that, before the incident.

WALSH: Yes, I was trying to get his name before we came on the show. What Kris is probably not aware of, that several months ago Smith's probation officer had him take a random drug test. He failed a drug test, he came up positive for drugs. The probation officer asked the judge to revoke his probation and put him in prison to serve out the full sentence of which he served only half of.

He only served a year and some months for that drug offense in 2001. This probation officer said this guy's a danger, your honor, he should be brought back into prison, and the judge turned down the probation officer's recommendation and Smith was put back on the streets. I think Kris doesn't know that.

KING: Did the judge at the time of this, it's public, give his reason for letting him out?

WALSH: I don't know if he did or not, Larry. It really baffles me, I mean a judge really could look at this guy's wrap sheet and say my God, he's been arrested 13 times. How many damned chances do we have to give him. He can't function in society, should have been in jail.

Maybe Carlie would have been alive if that judge had kept Smith and put him back in jail for parole violation. He should have been back in prison. Now we got to wait and see if the criminal justice system will do the right thing. It let us down a couple years ago when he was acquitted for kidnapping when a woman went on the witness stand and said he did it.

KING: I'm told we have a clip from the judge who didn't put him back in prison. Let's watch.


JUDGE HARRY RAPKIN, SARASOTA, FLORIDA: I think it was unfair that they just went and got this information and made it look, made it look like this man was in court and I cut a guilty guy loose. It's not true. I never saw the man. He never came here and all I had was this paperwork and all I did was require what the law makes me require.


KING: John does that change your mind?

WALSH: It doesn't change my mind, because I know that the parole, probation officer said judge he's violated the probation. You say, the normal consequence in Florida, the normal chain of events is, what's your recommendation, probation officer? I know for a fact that the probation officer said, judge, revoke his probation, make him serve the full sentence. The judge chose to do otherwise.

You know, it's a mistake. But not so much the judge doing that, Larry. You know, Governor Bush said it today, the attorney general of Florida, Charlie Chris said it today, they both agree with me and say that the system is broken. It's the criminal injustice system.

I don't know how many guys I've done on "America's Most Wanted" that have wrap sheets a mile long. And you always ask the same question, if we can put a lunar module on Mars why can't we fix our criminal justice system and keep these guys in jail.

KING: Steve, what do you think about all of this, how do you feel about the accused? How do you feel about what the judge did?

KANSLER: I agree with John. I mean, he had no reason being on the street. I'm sure there's thousands of others just like him that they're on the street and then a hard working individual doesn't pay a parking ticket, they come arrest them and take them to jail. This guy is a psycho, comes and goes as he pleases. Doesn't make any sense whatsoever. KING: Steve, do you plan to go to court for his appearances?

KANSLER: Yes, I do. I plan to be on everything that he's involved in.

KING: Understandable. We'll take a break and be back with more. We'll include your phone calls. Two other members will join us at the bottom of the hour, Brenda van Dam, a victim herself, her daughter tragically killed, and prosecutor who's prosecuted lots of cases in this area, Nancy Grace. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The body of a beautiful 11-year-old, Carlie Brucia, has been found.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The location of her remains, behind a church. Police are now dissecting the crime scene for evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to thank all the people behind me, and all the people behind them, and their efforts to find my daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have found Carlie, and the person responsible for her murder. We now stand ready to complete our obligation and assure you that he will pay the ultimate price for what he did to her.



KING: Since everybody's interested in this tragedy, we'll include a couple of calls in this segment and then other panel members will join us and more calls later. New York City, hello.

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Yes. Go ahead.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I was wondering, why are the parents so scrutinized as being responsible when their kids are taken? I know especially in the van Dam case, they were scrutinized as being responsible, and what else can parents do to help prevent this tragedies to their own kids?

KING: John?

WALSH: Well, I'll tell you, that's a normal recourse. When Adam was kidnapped, my wife and I had to go in separate rooms for 12 hours and take polygraph tests, and that's normal to eliminate the parents.

In the case of the van Dams, I thought the press was brutal. Their lifestyle and what they did was apples, and what happened to Danielle was oranges. They had nothing to do with the kidnapping. It was very, very tough. Here they are going through the search for their daughter, all kinds of speculation and innuendo. The press can be brutal, and not just the tabloid press, the mainstream press can be very exploitive.

And I know that Brenda van Dam went through hell, but she stayed in there and she hung tough, and David Westerfield is on death row because the system worked in this case.

KING: Steve, having been just a little late to pick her up, do you have any feelings of guilt? It would be normal to feel that way.

KANSLER: Of course, I blame myself. I should have been there. Maybe if I didn't go out, but if Carlie would have waited one more minute, I'd have, you know, I'd have picked her up.

KING: John can help you with that, because your wife had to face that, didn't she, John? She left Adam alone for a minute.

WALSH: Absolutely. Three minutes. He was there in the toy department. He asked to watch video games which were brand new. And when she came back, he had been ordered out of the store because some of the older boys were in an argument and an untrained security guard ordered them out.

I'm saying, Steve, please, Steve, you had nothing to do with this. Please don't be wracked with guilt. It is not your fault. The fault lies with the predator. Carlie's in heaven right now because of that predator, not because you didn't pick her up, Steve. You had nothing to do with it. Please, you've got to go through a whole lot more than this. Do not let -- do not for a minute think that this has anything to do with you or you have any guilt. It is Smith that is the guilty one, in my opinion, the alleged killer.

KING: Rockford, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry, and your distinguished guests. My question is for anybody who is qualified to answer this. I'd like to know if I was a juror, and I was on the panel during a case with this Smith guy, say for instance, why are we not allowed to know his past criminal record to help us to guide us not to let somebody like that go?

KING: Because they -- the feeling is, obviously, they feel -- if you know -- unless -- if he takes the stand, you can bring up his whole record. Is they don't want a jury to prejudge someone on a prior record. I think -- am I right, John?

WALSH: Great question, though, Larry. You're absolutely right. Unless he takes the stand, they can't bring up his prior record, although some DAs figure good ways to get it in there.

But you know, for example, when a child or a woman is raped, they're allowed to bring up her past sexual history, ask her every question about her personal life, but they are not allowed to talk about the defendant. That's how a lot of these guys get by, because the jury doesn't know what their history is. And I still say, I'm not a vigilante. I believe in the criminals' rights, but how about the victims getting some rights? I think a jury needs to know that if a guy has a long history of being a predator, and I don't think it's a violation of the criminal's rights.

KING: But the problem, you're saying criminal, you're not the criminal until the jury says you're guilty. You're the accused.

WALSH: Well, I'm talking about his prior -- you're exactly right.

KING: So it's accused's rights.

WALSH: Accused and he has -- but I'm talking about the accused rights, and I'm talking about his convictions, his prior convictions.

KING: I know.

WALSH: Because, Larry, I've sat in over 700 trials and I've watched innocent women who have been raped, brutalized by defense attorneys asking them, is it true you had sex with the Patriots, did you have sex with this guy. If they can bring up the past history of the victim, then they should be able to bring up the past history of the accused.

KING: Topeka, Kansas, hello.

CALLER: Hello. First, I'd like to say I'm praying for Carlie's family. In the previous kidnapping, was he acquitted by a judge or by a jury of his peers, and do we know anything about the prosecutor in that case?

KING: What do we know, John?

WALSH: He was acquitted by a jury. The prosecutor has said many times he was absolutely floored. In his career he's never seen such an aberration of justice. He thought that Smith was going to go down, and everybody knows that the lady he tried to kidnap was a great witness. She got on the stand and she said, "This man threatened to cut my throat if I didn't go with him," and the prosecutor did the best he could. He said in his whole career, he never saw anything like it that this guy walked on that one. And it just proved to Smith, don't tell anybody anything, I can get away with it, I can beat the system. Sends a terrible message.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, Steve and Kris and John will be joined by Brenda van Dam, the mother of a prior victim, and Nancy Grace, the prosecutor. We'll reintroduce the whole panel. More with them, more calls later. Don't go away.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: For any mom or dad to think about how to lose a child this way is just sad, and I'm angry, too, that people do these things. And I hope our criminal justice system responds appropriately and I'm sure it will.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Joining us in Sarasota and staying with us is Steve Kansler, the stepfather of the late Carlie Brucia. As he said, he's known her since age two, lived with him since -- more than stepfather, he feels like the father. Steve, on behalf of all of us and millions and millions of people across the country, you know, you have our deepest condolences.

Kris Osborn is the CNN correspondent covering this story. Also in Palm Beach, Florida, is John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted, America Fights Back." They'll cover the story tomorrow night. Brenda van Dam is stuck in traffic somewhere near here. As soon as she arrives, she'll be on and joining us in Las Vegas tonight is Nancy Grace, Court TV anchor and former prosecutor. Nancy, since you're new to the panel tonight, what's your read on this story?

NANCY GRACE, COURT TV, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Larry, not just as a former prosecutor but as a crime victim, when you hear stories like the story of Carlie it's heartbreaking and nobody could look at little Carlie and not fall in love with her. And all the pundits and the politicoes can go on and on and on about what shouldawouldacoulda. But it is the judge's fault, that let him go. Let him go when he violated probation. I'll just put it out there, it's the truth.

It is the jury's fault. They refused to believe a victim back in 1997, she was a vivid witness on the stand, there were two eyewitnesses including a cop that saw what went down and no one has mentioned a 1993 aggravated battery where this man beat a woman in the head, broke her nose with a motorcycle helmet. 13 arrests and the system let him walk and now little Carlie is dead. What do I think? I think a Florida jury should have the choice as to whether to send this man to the death penalty.

KING: Will they have that? Do you think he'll be tried? Well, he probably will, won't he?

GRACE: Well, we've heard a lot tonight about a plea. Do I see a plea? Not unless he wants to plea to the death penalty. Larry, earlier, and we saw this go down in the van Dam case with little Danielle van Dam. We saw where Westerfield was on the cusp, Larry, he was in negotiations to tell where Danielle's body was in exchange for life without parole. I heard earlier that this man, Joseph P. Smith was in negotiations with police and I was concerned that that would go down. Later on we've heard there are no deals in the work and under Florida law, he would qualify, if what we've heard is true, Larry, under felony murder, which means if you are in the middle of a kidnap, and a death occurs, that is grounds for the death penalty if a jury agrees.

KING: The judge said that he never had the defendant in front of him. All he had was a piece of paper.

GRACE: Well, you know, when a judge makes a decision on a piece of paper, no disrespect, but what kind of judge is that? That judge had to be able to look at his rap sheet. KING: What would he have done?

GRACE: Well, apparently as John said and we've heard on other reports, he had refused to pay any court costs and he had flunked a drug test while he was on probation. You get probation or parole when they cut you out of the prison system. It is a privilege, and then to be positive with a drug test, refusing to pay your court costs, that's grounds to put you back in the slammer which is where he should have been. This just went down, Larry, 12/30, December 30, and on his 13th arrest, and multiple convictions.

KING: How do you change this system, John, do you think?

WALSH: Well, I talked to Susan today. I know Steve is behind this. This may spring another law here. Jeb Bush, as you've already had a quote from him on this program. He's ready to take a good look at this. I mean, you know, we started in California with a three strikes law. It wasn't well thought out. It's backfired a couple of times but I really believe that it will change the way judges look at parole violators in this state and I think there will be a piece of state legislation and I hope they call it Carlie's law. It will give a judge a chance to say, hey, when a probation officer says this guy is a bad guy, he's a long wrap sheet, judges will be forced to look at it closer and send these guys back. I think something positive will come out of this.

KING: Steve Kansler, do you think when someone -- or when parole is violated, no, question, immediately back in?

KANSLER: Yes, they should. Obviously we saw what happened with this gentlemen. He was let out on the street. They thought he was nice and really he's an animal.

KING: Do you bear anger toward the judge, Steve?

KANSLER: The judge didn't make him do it. The judge could have helped him avoid it but he did all this himself. There's no one to blame but him.

KING: Kris Osborn, what's the next thing that happens here? When is the next appearance? Is there an arraignment? What's next?

OSBORN: Well, tomorrow on the court's schedule, is a first appearance hearing where Smith would have the right to appear before a judge and several decisions would be made. In this hearing, one of the things that's determined by the judge, is there probable cause to continue to hold Smith before there would be an indictment in this case which could continue, of course, and lead at some point potentially to a trial. This afternoon, investigators here in Sarasota county said that Smith's attorneys waived his right to appear so he will not be there. Nonetheless, there will be that court proceeding tomorrow. He'll likely remain in custody until there is ostensibly some kind of trial.

KING: And Kris, are these court-appointed attorneys?

OSBORN: I may have lost the second half of your question. Yes, public defenders, yes, Larry.

KING: Nancy, that's a right of all defendants, correct, if they can't afford, a public defender is assigned.

GRACE: We the taxpayers will give them lawyers. A lot of people look down on public defenders. Let me tell you something, Larry, public defenders have probably tried more death penalty cases and jury trials like district attorneys. They've got to take the case whether they want it or not. What's going to go down tomorrow is a probable cause hearing. The judge will keep him behind bars. After that there will be a formal arraignment, I expect an indictment to come down. At that time the state will formally announce, if they're going to do it, that they'll seek the death penalty, that will trigger a whole new host of lawyers that are death penalty-qualified in Florida to try that case.

KING: I see. We're going to take a break and when we come back, we'll show you that videotape that's arrived at our studios in Atlanta. John will explain what it is. We're still hoping that Brenda van Dam makes it here. We'll all be right back. Don't go away.


JOEY BRUCIA, CARLIE'S FATHER: I didn't see her often. I saw her twice a year, two weeks at a clip but now she can see me always. She's in a better place. She got there in a horrific manner, but now she's watching me all the time. So there's only one thing I can do, and that's try make her proud of me, and be a better man.



KING: Well, Brenda hasn't arrived yet, but the tape has in Atlanta, so I want John to set this up. What are we going to see, John?

WALSH: Larry, this is an exclusive that we've given to you. We were going to show it exclusively tomorrow night, but I love this show and I think everybody should see this. This establishes the car, the car that has the DNA in it that police believe that he kidnapped the little -- this little victim, Carlie, in this car. You're going to see it as we're talking about it here. It's crucial, because tomorrow they probably -- the judge will recommend no bail, and what will happen now is the prosecutor will take over the case, which they have, and build a case.

Now, two things can happen here. They can settle for a plea argument of life without if the family doesn't feel they can go through the nightmare of the trial. That saves families the nightmare, and Brenda van Dam knows that. Brenda van Dam and her husband wanted to see the death penalty. This establishes the getaway car at the car wash and we have -- go ahead. You can roll it.

KING: OK. Let's roll it, guys. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: But the big break came from a second videotape from the car wash, seen here tonight for the very first time. Look, a car pulled up to the car wash just moments before Carlie was taken.

Then on Tuesday, an anonymous tip led police to this man, Joseph Smith. The cops went to question him, they found the car and they believe they found their killer.


KING: John, how is that -- how did they get a videotape of the car? Is that normal procedure at a car wash?

WALSH: Well, the owner of this car wash is a key component here, because he runs videotape 24-7 around that car wash, and of course, everybody saw the chilling...

KING: Really?

WALSH: Yeah, he does a great job. Everybody saw the chilling video of Smith allegedly grabbing her. But now he reviewed the car -- all the rest of his tapes, which was released, by the way, by Sheriff Phil Balkwell, who I think did a great job. But it's really going to establish him at the scene, the getaway vehicle there, and I -- no case is a slam dunk, Larry, but I'm sure the state is going to go for the death penalty unless the family wants to settle for life without possibility of parole. And I hope this guy gets it, because he deserves it.

KING: We have one of the family members here, he is the stepfather, there is still the biological father and the mother, but Steve, if you were asked, do you want to go through a trial or would you take life in prison, what would you say?

KANSLER: I want a trial. I want him to die.

KING: You want a trial?

KANSLER: Yes, I do.

KING: Do you think your wife will feel the same?

KANSLER: I feel my wife wants revenge. He needs to suffer the way our daughter did.

KING: Nancy, what's the usual in this? Is it 50/50, some families say yes, some say no?

GRACE: Well, normally, Larry, when it is the death of a child, the family does statistically want the death penalty. We see it very, very often, and juries very often feel the same way when you have a defenseless child. This girl, to put it in perspective, was just 11 years old, Larry. Try to think back, if we all can, to the age of the sixth grade, and this little girl only missed her father coming to get her by about 10 minutes.

That video is going to be so important. It establishes the time around 6:20. He arrived there to get her around 6:30. And what is so important about this video, Larry, is that the defendant can claim, and NASA has tried to enhance that video, and my understanding is it hasn't helped that much, but thank God for the video.

But what's so important about the car being on the video is that, through careful analysis, the FBI or the local crime lab in Florida is excellent, can determine it's not only the same type of car, Larry, which as you know, is a '92 Buick Century, but the exact car, based on dings in the car, certain things about the car that are individual to it, which tightens the net on Joseph's neck.

KING: Got you. We understand that Brenda van Dam, who couldn't get here because the traffic jam is with us by phone. Are you there, Brenda?


KING: Thanks. I'm sorry about -- we're having a calamitous situation in Southern California here tonight on Sunset, but I appreciate you calling in.

VAN DAM: Thank you. I'm so sorry. I'm going to be there soon to see you, though.

KING: OK, what can you -- Steve Kansler is with us. He is the stepfather of the deceased, but he's really like her father, because he's been with her since age 2. What can you say to him?

VAN DAM: Oh, my gosh, Larry. That's a tough question. I can just tell him that my heart goes out to him. It's not over yet. They still have to see this through the whole prosecuting of the person who murdered her, and it's going to be a long road ahead of him.

KING: He has just said that he would rather have a trial if there's going to be the death penalty than if asked would you take life in prison with no trial, and John Walsh has told us that you were offered the same thing and wanted a trial. Why?

VAN DAM: Actually, I wasn't offered the same thing. What I wanted, what I did was I went to the district attorney and I asked him to negotiate the death penalty in order -- so in order for him to tell us where Danielle was. So it was a little bit different. But I would have given up that option of him getting the death penalty in order find my daughter.

KING: Oh, you had a little different matter then.


KING: I see, the timing was off and different. Kris, is there any clue there in Sarasota as to what they're going to ask for?

OSBORN: Well, it's very interesting, Larry, because there was a clue of sorts in some of the initial court documents that were released by the police today. It said the cause of death based on preliminary forensic evidence was homicidal violence, not much beyond that. However, a detective did tell me that this afternoon, there was an autopsy under way, a more formal autopsy, which of course could produce quite potentially very grim subject matter, of course, but could potentially produce evidence key to the case in this instance against Mr. Smith.

KING: That's a kind of -- I guess -- do you ever really -- what are the days like? Do you ever get past it? What do you say to Steve? I mean, it doesn't go away, does it?

VAN DAM: It doesn't go away. I think you -- you live your life day-to-day, and you take each day as it comes to you. It's never going to go away. But one of the things I wanted to comment on is the fact that they have Carlie's body is so crucial in prosecuting the person, and I forget his name, excuse me. But what is his name?

KING: Smith.

VAN DAM: Smith. That's where they found so much evidence against David Westerfield in our trial, and I think it's going to play a big role in prosecuting him.

KING: Nancy, you agree?

GRACE: I could not agree more, and hearing Brenda van Dam's voice brings back the tragedy...

KING: Yeah, I know.

GRACE: ... of little Danielle van Dam. I covered it every single day. And she's right. The thing that is going to be integral in this case is that they have found little Carlie's body, and when you take a look at this crime, you wonder about motivation. One, there is no kidnap for ransom. It's not about money. It's not about a robbery. It's clearly going to be a sexual predator situation, and I'm going to predict based on that that you will find DNA evidence on Carlie's body, as much as I don't like to think of it, that will relate back to Joseph P. Smith, and that, Larry, will serve to inflame a jury no end.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments. We'll hold Brenda van Dam on the phone and get some comments from each of our guests before we wrap it up. And don't forget, tomorrow night on "America's Most Wanted," John Walsh will be covering this with more exclusives, as he always is on top of things. Don't go away.


CARL WHITEHEAD, FBI: We had hoped that we could have brought her safely back home, but unfortunately, the circumstances did not allow that to be. I'm especially proud of the agents that worked hand in hand with the detectives, around the clock, to locate Carlie. We will continue this effort to process the evidence, to ensure that Mr. Smith is successfully prosecuted for this horrendous crime. (END VIDEO CLIP)


KING: Welcome back. Brenda, were you happy with the police work in your case?

VAN DAM: Oh, I think the San Diego Police Department did a wonderful job. And I'm very happy with the way they handled it. Definitely.

KING: How has the police done here, John, in the Florida matter?

WALSH: Sheriff Bill Balkwell did a great job. He brought in people from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, worked with Florida department law enforcement, worked with the FBI. He really ran a great case, and now it's up to the prosecutor.

And I think that they've got a lot of evidence, Larry. They've got video of the abduction. They've got video of the car placing it at the scene. They've got DNA in the car, and I hope this guy gets the death penalty.

The only problem is, as Jeb Bush said here in Florida, it takes 14 years before you see justice and millions and millions of dollars, but I think they're going to go for the death penalty tomorrow. He deserves it.

But you got to remember one thing, Larry, this guy didn't voluntarily tell. He didn't have the guts, even though he has three daughters of his own, he didn't have the guts to tell where this little girl was. Thank God he bragged about it to somebody and that tipster had the guts to come to the police and tell where the body is.

As Nancy said, the body is crucial. As Brenda Van Dam said it, David Westerfield was arrogant in that courtroom, he was going to get away with just kidnapping. This guy is going to go down, Larry, he deserves it.

KING: Chattanooga, Tennessee, one more quick call, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, this is for John. John, I was abducted in '93 from a mall and held four hours. What precautions, safety precautions can you give to women shopping in the malls?

KING: We have another woman missing, don't we, Dru Sjodin.

WALSH: Dru Sjodin, Larry, this is a horrible case. This girl's body has not been found. As Nancy Grace said, they've got the alleged murderer in jail, and he has just got out for 23 years of kidnapping and raping women. He won't tell where the body is. The bloody knife was found in his car. It is so frustrating why we can't talk to these guys.

But I always tell women, women are the No. 1, you know, category that these predators look for from the ages of 5 right on to 80 years old. Women if you don't go to the car in the mall at night when the stores are closed by yourself, every mall has security guards. Please be street smart, don't think can't happen to you and be aware of it all the time.

KING: Kris Osborn a tough story to cover, isn't it?

OSBORN: Without question, Larry. And the emotion of what Steve and other family members here are going through is appreciated by many today. Earlier I spoke to three of Carlie's classmates in the sixth grade and they said every other Saturday in Sarasota they go to something called Team Scene, where sixth, seventh eighth grade kids can play basketball and listen to music and one of her classmates said it's just much too painful to think about going tomorrow.

A lot of people remembering little Carlie, 11 years old. There's a small makeshift memorial over here behind us, some teddy bears, some candles, a lot of people bringing by flowers, talking about how loving, pretty and how nice Carlie was. Certainly an emotional day for many people.

KING: Nancy, we only have a quick time. This is tough to prosecute emotionally, isn't it?

GRACE: Very, very tough, Larry, to prosecute emotionally. And as Brenda Van Dam said, after being a victim of a crime like this, it's like a broken arm you don't get fixed, Larry. You learn to flip an egg, but it still hurts. It may take 14 years for justice in this case, but I'm willing to wait.

KING: Thank you all very much. Steve Kansler with all of our condolences. Kris Osborn, John Walsh, Brenda Van Dam with us by phone, couldn't make it here with the traffic and Nancy Grace.

Speaking of Nancy, I want to say a word. Today is February 6, it is Ronald Reagan's birthday, the former president is 93 years old. He's the nation's longest living former president. Mr. Reagan is spending a quiet birthday at home with his beloved wife and the daughter, Patty Davis, is with him. Our best wishes go out to him and his family.

We get to see Nancy quite often. She is quite a lady. He is quite a guy. There have been better birthdays, but he's still with us, thank heavens. Happy birthday, Ronald Reagan. I'll be back.


KING: Tomorrow night, we'll repeat our last interview with Janet Jackson. Sunday night, Ed Bradley. And Monday night, we'll get up on all the doings of the opening of the Peterson Trial and we'll talk with Anna Nicole Smith, a slim Anna Nicole Smith.


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