SARASOTA, FL (AP) -- Scrapes, marks and bruises on Carlie Brucia's body indicate the 11-year-old girl was bound, dragged on her side and strangled from behind with a cord or string, a medical examiner testified Monday on the fifth day of the trial of her accused killer.
Carlie also appeared to be have been sexually assaulted, Dr. Russell Vega said as jurors were shown almost two dozen graphic images on a television screen of Carlie's badly decomposed body.
"My opinion remains that strangulation was the cause of death," said Vega, medical director for Florida's 12th district.
Joseph Smith, a 39-year-old former auto mechanic and father of three daughters, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and capital sexual battery in the death of Carlie Brucia. He
pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he may face the death penalty.
Carlie's disappearance February 1, 2004 was captured by a car wash security camera and broadcast worldwide. Her decomposed body was found under brush at a church property more than four days later.
The television screen was positioned at jurors so that most of the audience in the courtroom were unable to see the autopsy images, although Carlie's father, Joe Brucia, changed seats so he
could get a partially obstructed view.
Carlie had a mark around her neck less than a fourth of an inch-wide that went over her Adam's apple, Vega testified. There was no knot impression, and marks on the back of the neck were
higher than those in the front, indicating someone taller than Carlie held the cord continuously from behind her, he added.
Although no ties or cords were found at the crime scene, marks on Carlie's wrists are consistent with her hands being tied while she was still alive. Yellow abrasions on her right side suggest she was dragged over a surface like concrete, and scratches on her left hip point to her being dragged over branches, while her hands were
bound, Vega said.
The medical examiner said Carlie was dragged either right before or just after she died.
Although her body was so badly decomposed that it was difficult to find physical evidence that she was sexually assaulted, the fact that Carlie's red shirt was partially over her right shoulder, her bra unclasped and partially pulled down and that she was unclothed below the waist suggest that she was, Vega said.
But during cross-examination by defense attorney Adam Tebrugge, Vega conceded that no semen was found on Carlie's body or her clothing when local officials performed an examination.
Tebrugge has contended that a semen stain only was found on the back of Carlie's shirt only after it was taken to an FBI lab, whose
reliability he has attacked. Vega also testified under cross examination that Carlie had no "classic" signs of injuries made when someone is defending himself or herself.