Florida murder case: Teen gets life sentence in brutal death of Tristyn Bailey, 13. Everything to know
The body of Tristyn Bailey, 13, was discovered on Mother's Day, May 9, 2021, hours after the Florida teenager was reported missing by her family. She had been stabbed and slashed, over and over and over again.
Aiden Fucci, then 14, was arrested on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Bailey – a case that captured national attention for its brutality and the ages of the victim and perpetrator. In February 2023, just before jury selection was to begin. Fucci changed his plea to guilty.
Judge R. Lee Smith on Friday sentenced Fucci to life in prison, calling the crime “heinous, atrocious and cruel."
"It was done for no other reason than to satisfy this defendant's internal desire to feel what it was like to kill someone," Smith said. "It was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner without any pretense for moral or legal justification."
Here's what happened that night in 2021 and in the months afterward.
Who is Tristyn Bailey?
Tristyn Bailey was one of five children of Stacy and Forrest Bailey. She lived in Durbin Crossing in northwest St. Johns County, which is located in northeastern Florida just south of Jacksonville. Bailey was a student and cheerleader at Patriot Oaks Academy in St. Johns.
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Who is Aiden Fucci?
Aiden Sean Fucci, 14 at the time of the killing, was a fellow student at Patriot Oaks and lived near Bailey. Fucci's girlfriend and other friends told investigators that Fucci often talked about killing people and specifically said he planned to drag a random person into the woods and stab them. While the records of minors under the age of 18 are sealed, State Attorney for the 7th Circuit R.J. Larizza said Fucci did not have a prior criminal record.
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How did Tristyn Bailey die?
On the night of her death, a friend said Fucci asked for Bailey's number, according to police reports. He convinced her to leave home and meet at a friend's home, and video footage from a residence shows two people believed to be Fucci and Bailey walking east on Saddlestone Drive near the area where her body was later found toward the end of a retention pond. An hour and 45 minutes later, the same video seems to show Fucci heading back, alone, carrying his shoes.
An autopsy revealed Tristyn had 114 "stab or cutting wounds about her head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and back," according to an unredacted warrant affidavit released by the state attorney. At least 49 of them were defensive wounds, the medical examiner said.
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What does Aiden Fucci say happened the night Tristyn Bailey died?
In Fucci's arrest report, he confirmed being with Bailey at a mutual friend’s house and leaving with her at about 1:10 a.m. on May 9, 2021. He said he walked around awhile until getting to hist home at about 3:30 a.m.
But an investigator said Fucci kept changing his story. Finally, Fucci said they got into an argument and he pushed Bailey to the ground, where she struck her head.
What was Aiden Fucci charged with?
Fucci was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder in Bailey's death. The State Attorney's Office for the 7th Circuit later upgraded the charge to first-degree murder, premeditated, due to the brutality of the crime. Fucci was charged as an adult.
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Did Aiden Fucci post a Snapchat selfie?
Yes. During the search for the missing Bailey, an investigator noticed a Snapchat message by Fucci showing him in the backseat of a patrol car taking a selfie and holding up a peace sign. The message said, "Hey guys has inybody [sic] seen Tristyn lately." One of the responses read, "You were with her Aiden u know what happened to her."
What was the evidence against Fucci?
A buck knife with a missing tip was found in the pond near her body matched a fragment lodged in Bailey's scalp and was identified as Fucci's. There is security video and DNA evidence.
Also in his home were wet shoes and clothing with blood on them in his room, blood and dirt on the drain by the bathroom sink and wet denim jeans in a laundry basket. An empty knife sheath was found in his room, and a notebook with violent drawings. Cellphone records and emails, Snapchats, recorded phone calls and texts from jail and interviews with friends, family, teachers and fellow inmates all are further evidence in the case.
Timeline: Events in the disappearance, death of Florida 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey
What did Fucci's friends say about him?
In interviews with investigators, Fucci's girlfriend said he often carried a knife with him and talked about killing people and even her. He would come up from behind her and pretend to slit her throat. But she and other friends said they never took it seriously. She also said he claimed to hear voices in his head when he was angry. He did tell the court he was on antidepressants.
In the sentencing proceedings, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kurt Hannon noted that Fucci's best friend and girlfriend each described him as having a fascination with knives, carried one with him and showed them off. He even named them "Picker" and "Poker."
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Why was Crystal Smith, Aiden Fucci's mother, arrested?
Video surveillance at the Fucci home the day after the killing captured Crystal Lane Smith, Fucci's mother, taking a pair of jeans from Fucci's bedroom into the adjacent bathroom, and the video appears to show her scrubbing the jeans.
That night, Fucci was placed with his parents in a recorded St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office holding room. Smith asked Fucci if he was sure nothing was on his clothes from the night before, according to the Sheriff's Office. “I don't think so, why?” Fucci asked. The warrant said Smith “could be observed giving [Fucci] a questioning look and whispered, ‘Blood.’”
Police located the jeans in Fucci’s bedroom during a search warrant. The jeans and the drain of the bathroom sink tested positive for the presence of blood, the affidavit stated.
Crystal Smith was arrested in June on a charge of tampering with evidence in the case.
What incidents has Aiden Fucci been involved in while in jail?
Sheriff's Office incident reports document multiple instances of Fucci being involved in fights, having contraband, bullying inmates out of their commissary items, threatening them and being combative with guards and making threats against them. He has had to be pepper-sprayed and restrained on more than one occasion.
An inmate also said Fucci asserted that he was "real" because he stabbed a girl face to face, unlike others who resorted to shooting someone.
What possible sentence did Aiden Fucci face?
Although he was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, due to being a juvenile he is not eligible for the death penalty. He does face 40 years to life in prison. After serving 25 years of a life term, the judge can review the possibility of a lighter sentence, according to Florida law.
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Contributors: Scott Butler, Teresa Stepzinski, Florida Times-Union; Sheldon Gardner, Colleen Michele Jones, St. Augustine Record
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Florida teen murder: Everything we know about Tristyn Bailey's killing