updated 2/20/2004 8:33:41 PM ET 2004-02-21T01:33:41

An auto mechanic accused of killing a girl whose abduction was captured on a car wash surveillance camera was indicted on a first-degree murder charge Friday as prosecutors indicated for the first time they believe he raped and strangled the 11-year-old.

The state attorney’s office separately filed charges of kidnapping and capital sexual battery against Joseph P. Smith, 37, assistant state attorney Dennis Nales said.

Carlie Brucia was killed by strangulation with a ligature, such as a cord or rope, according to the indictment. Prosecutors declined to release additional details.

Her body was found near a church five days after she was abducted Feb. 1. Investigators initially said only that the girl was killed by “homicidal violence.”

Nales declined comment on whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Smith, who’s being held without bond in the Sarasota County jail.

Smith’s public defender, Adam Tebrugge, said his client will plead not guilty at his arraignment scheduled for March 12. “We will thoroughly investigate the case and vigorously defend Mr. Joseph Smith,” Tebrugge said.

Carlie was abducted around dusk as she took a shortcut behind the car wash while heading home from a friend’s house. The digital video security system showed a man in a blue mechanic’s uniform grabbing the sixth-grader’s arm and walking her off.

The video images were broadcast on television news, and at least two acquaintances called police to say they recognized the man as Smith. He was arrested Feb. 3.

Carlie’s body was found Feb. 6 about three miles from the car wash. Investigators say Smith told a jail visitor where they could find the body.

Smith is a drug felon and had avoided jail at least twice despite violating probation and has been arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993. Two cases involved attacks on women, but he was acquitted in one of the cases.

The girl’s death has prompted Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist to consider whether to stiffen penalties for offenders who violate the terms of their release. The Florida Legislature also is expected to take up the issue.

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