Tristyn Bailey fought for her life until the end.
Just five weeks ago, thirteen-year-old Tristyn Bailey competed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Cheerleading with her team, Infinity. The group were triple crown champions who competed across the United States in numerous events, and Tristyn was a crucial part of the team.
Tristyn Bailey via clickorlando.com
By all accounts, the teenager from St Johns, Florida, was happy and vivacious, with countless friends and an active social circle. Unfortunately, her life was cut short when her fourteen-year-old classmate stabbed her multiple times for no apparent reason.
Tristyn’s family called emergency services around 10 am on Sunday the 9th of May when Tristyn failed to return home. A search began immediately, with police and the community involved in the effort. However, several hours later, the search for the teenager came to an abrupt end.
At 7 pm, the search was called off after Tristyn’s body was found by a neighbour in a wooded area by Durbin Amenity Center. She was clothed in her white cheerleading skirt and a top, but the scene was from a horror movie. Tristyn’s lifeless body was covered head to toe in blood from her 114 stab wounds.
She’d fought her attacker hard, with nearly 50 of the injuries appearing on her hands and arms. She’d been stabbed so viciously that the tip of the knife blade had broken.
“She is just the most cheerful, most spirited friendliest person,” coach Courtney Sparks told WJXT-TV. “[She] is down to basically do whatever really to help unite the team. Whatever it takes for like the team to get to the next level, she’s the person to like help push the team forward.”
Soon after her discovery, her classmate Aiden Fucci was arrested.
Aiden Fucci via St Johns County Sheriff’s Office
Fucci’s house was close to the crime scene, and from the outset, he was considered a suspect in Tristyn’s murder. He was taken to the police station in the back of a cop car, where he posted a selfie on Snapchat with the caption, “[sic] Hey guys has inybody seen Tristyn lately”.
Aiden Fucci’s Snapchat image from the police car via Snapchat
According to Florida State Attorney RJ Larizza, Fucci’s attack on Tristyn Bailey was random, and she was the unfortunate victim. However, the murder was premeditated.
Larizza clarified some queries in the press conference, “He didn’t say who that was, but he indicated that he was going to kill someone by taking them into the woods and stabbing them, which are certainly the facts of this case”.
On the night of Tristyn’s murder, she and Fucci were with a group of other friends but were eventually left alone.
“This could just be a case of wrong place, wrong time,” Larizza said and explained his frustration that no one took Fucci’s threats seriously, despite several witnesses.
“Could this have been prevented? We can’t be sure,” he said, adding that parents in the area “need to know what your kids are doing and saying.”
Fucci was charged with premeditated murder and will be tried as an adult in the Florida judicial system. His DNA was found on Tristyn’s body, but authorities haven’t disclosed what type of sample was collected. They also found Tristyn’s DNA on items in Fucci’s bedroom.
Prosecutors are now seeking a life sentence for the fourteen-year-old, and if he’s convicted, his case will be reviewed after 25 years, though it’s likely Fucci and his attorney will appeal for a reduced sentence due to him being under 18 years old.
Nearly a month after Tristyn’s murder, Aiden Fucci’s mother, Crystal Lane Smith, was arrested. The warrant for her arrest claimed that Smith had tried to wash the blood off her son’s jeans after Tristyn’s death, therefore tampering with evidence.
“Typically, the default mode for parents is reflexive and it is typical to protect their children, but after more thought, often it’s really a question of family loyalty versus tough love,” said forensic pathologist, Dr Justin D’Arienzo.
The community of St Johns are angry at what’s happened but also mourn their loss.
“This was not the outcome the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office wanted, or this community [wanted]”, St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick said. “This is a grieving community and we’re going to respect our grieving community”.
Counsellors were brought into Patriot Oaks Academy, where Tristyn and Fucci attended school, to help counsel their grief-stricken friends. Many of Tristyn’s friends and classmates wore white to honour the cheerleader and the lives she touched, despite her few years.
Aiden Fucci’s pre-trial hearing is scheduled for late July. Because of his age, he won’t face the death penalty.