Tristyn Bailey was supposed to help make a special Mother’s Day breakfast for mom Stacey on the day she was reported missing on 9 May 2021.
Recalling the day at a memorial service exactly one year later, her father Forrest said that Tristyn’s sister Sophia had already begun preparing the meal before they noticed anything was awry.
“Shortly after that, our day was shattered,” Forrest Bailey told the service, according to WJXT-TV.
The family reported Tristyn, a 13-year-old seventh grade student at Patriot Oaks Academy, missing at around 10am to the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office who put out an urgent missing person’s alert.
The alert said Tristyn had last been seen at 1.15am that day at the Durbin Amenity Center in northwest St Johns County, and that she was wearing a white cheerleading skirt and dark shirt.
Her body was found at about 6pm that night near a retention pond at the end of Saddlestone Drive, south of Jacksonville.
She had been stabbed 114 times, the sheriff’s department would later say, including 49 defensive stab wounds on her arms and right hand.
Sheriff Rob Hardwick told The St. Augustine Record it was a horrific, brutal murder.
“I hate to use the words, but — it’s our worst nightmare,” he said.
Nearly two years later, Tristyn’s classmate Aiden Fucci pleaded guilty to her murder in February. He is now in the midst of sentencing, where he faces 40 years to life in prison.
Here’s everything to know about the chilling case:
Aiden Fucci, a 14-year-old classmate who lived half a mile from where the body was found, was arrested that night while the search for Tristyn was still underway.
As he was sat in the back of a patrol car, he took a selfie and posted it on Snapchat.
“Hey guys has anybody seen Tristyn lately,” the caption read.
The State Attorney’s Office later released several Snapchat videos taken and uploaded while Fucci was in the police vehicle.
“We’re having fun, in a f***ing cop car,” Fucci said while looking into the camera and smiling.
In a separate Snapchat video Fucci appears to be alone in the cop car, and says: “Guess who’s in a f***ing cop car... tripping, dude.”
The St Johns County Sheriff’s Office would later release CCTV footage of Fucci walking with the 13-year-old on the night she was killed. He was later seen in the footage running by himself.
On the night of Fucci’s arrest, investigators searched his home and found a sheath of a Buck knife in his bedroom, along with a white Nike shoes with bloodstains, a T-shirt with blood on it; a white piece of paper with possible blood on it.
Fucci was charged with second-degree murder and ordered held without bail.
A Buck knife retrieved from a pond near where Bailey’s body was found was consistent with her stab wounds.
“The defendant’s story changed several times but [he] ultimately made several admissions,” according to an arrest report obtained by The Florida Times-Union.
His mother Crystal Smith was later charged with tampering with evidence for allegedly washing blood off his jeans.
According to an arrest warrant, a surveillance camera inside the home recorded Ms Smith washing the jeans and traces of blood were also found in a sink drain.
About three weeks after his arrest, the charges which was later upgraded to first-degree murder.
“The bottom line is that premeditation, could be inferred, certainly from just the sheer number of stab wounds that Tristyn Bailey had to suffer,” State’s Prosecutor RJ Larizza said explaining the decision to upgrade the charges.
A report released by the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office in July 2021 revealed that Fucci had told friends that he fantasised about killing and mutilation.
“He said he wanted to slit someone’s throat, he said it’d be satisfying,” a friend told deputes, according to First Coast News.
“He’s talked about killing people talked about fighting people. I’ve have seen him practice stabbing motions with his knife. And I mean, you don’t really take any of this stuff as in: He’s gonna stab and kill somebody. Because he’s just a kid. We’re all just kids.”
An unnamed teen identified as Fucci’s “best friend” said that his violent obsessions were a way of coping with his violent and neglectful home life.
The friend said Fucci had been a heavy cannabis smoker.
During his 20 months in Duval County Jail awaiting trial, Fucci has been in several fights, threatened to stab a fellow teen inmate, and been pepper sprayed by corrections officers, according to First Coast News.
One fellow inmate said he had boasted that he’d “stab a b**** face to face”.
A killer’s confession
On 6 February 2023, on the first day of his murder trial, Fucci pled guilty to first-degree murder.
“I just want to apologise to the Bailey family,” Fucci, now 16, told the court.
The guilty plea had not been negotiated with prosecutors, St. Johns County Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith said.
In fact prosecutors had already rejected several plea deals made by the defence, one of the teenager’s lawyers told the court.
Some of Bailey’s family members walked out of the courtroom in tears after the 11th hour change of plea, according to WJXT-TV.
Sheriff Hardwick said in a statement afterwards the guilty plea was a sign of the overwhelming evidence investigators had assembled.
He also paid tribute to the Bailey family.
“Their strength and grace throughout this case has been incredible. This agency will forever be connected to the Bailey Family and this community will forever be #BaileyStrong,” he said.
Fucci’s sentencing began on 21 March. He faces 40 years to life behind bars.
Hundreds of residents dressed in aqua, teal and turquoise colours for a vigil one year on from Tristyn’s death in May 2022, according to WJXT-TV.
Her former cheerleading teammates wore t-shirts that read: “We cheer for Tristyn.”
Tristyn’s family, known as the Bailey 7, released a statement to say they were working on several initiatives to honour her memory.
These included aligning with youth mental health programmes, and organising awards in Tristyn’s name for her former cheerleading and lacrosse teams.
“Through acts of kindness and love as a community we can drive out evil together,” the family statement said.
The family released a new statement ahead of Fucci’s sentencing, which featured never-before-seen photos of the beloved teen.
“To her family, Tristyn fulfilled every role to the fullest. As the baby of the family, she is treasured in every way,” the family said.
“She was absolutely adored by her grandparents and spent much time with them even managing to get the most attention as a baby from her grandad than any sibling before her.
“As a daughter, Tristyn always exceeded the expectations that were put in front of her. She was dedicated and thoughtful. Stacy and Tristyn enjoyed a great many memories from cheer weekends and enjoyed a close bond.”
And they added: “Tristyn’s best role may have been as a sibling. She was always able to engage with each of them. When any one of them had anything to do, she was the first to go with them.
“Brittney and Tristyn, despite being 16 years apart, were best friends and kindred spirits. She and Alexis shared in their deep love of animals and spent a lot of time together with Alexis being almost a 2nd mom.
“As the only brother, Teegan commands a special bond with each of his sisters and Teegan was able to bring out Tristyn’s serious side. They would talk about goals and aspirations and outline the work to accomplish them.
“Sophia and Tristyn were easily described as the ying/yang relationship. From the moment Tristyn entered the world, they spent all their time together and were the best of friends.”
And the family concluded their tribute, by saying: “Tristyn made an incredible impact in 13 years and it is a travesty to not see what she would have done. We remain forever, Tristyn Bailey Strong!”