ST. JOHNS, Fla. – St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick announced Monday morning that the body found in the woods near Durbin Crossing just after 6 p.m. Sunday is that of Tristyn Bailey, and a fellow student at her school was arrested and charged with her murder.
Aiden Fucci, 14, was taken into custody overnight and charged with second-degree murder. While he was booked in St. Johns County, he is being held at a Department of Juvenile Justice facility in Volusia County.
“We have a suspect arrested and, unfortunately, a 13-year-old girl dead,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick said the investigation doesn’t stop with the arrest. There are no other suspects connected to her death at this time, but multiple crime scenes are being processed and many tips are still being followed, so there could be other charges filed.
He would not discuss the cause of death but did say Tristyn’s body was fully clothed when she was found. Hardwick said it is possible charges against Fucci could be upgraded in consultation with the State Attorney’s Office.
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Hardwick said the Sheriff’s Office got word about the search for Tristyn every way it could think of and praised the community for stepping up in a big way.
“I cannot thank this community enough,” he said. “We saw moms and families out walking the woodline in clothes like church clothes yesterday. This case was solved because a gentleman saw the information put out there and went to work looking around his immediate area.”
Hardwick added there is a lot of false information floating around on social media. He would not comment on a chilling picture out there showing Fucci in the back of a patrol car with the caption: “Hey guys has anybody seen Tristyn lately?”
The Sheriff’s Office is collecting everything out there that could be leads in this case. While he knows there is anger in the community, he urged people not to believe everything they see or hear until investigators review it.
“Let us do our jobs. Let the medical examiners do their job. And let’s let the attorney’s office prosecute this case,” Hardwick said, not wanting to address Fucci’s background. “I’m more worried about Tris and her family.”
Monday evening, deputies were seen searching a pond near a cul-de-sac in the neighborhood near where Bailey was found.
At about 6:30 p.m., a diver was seen coming out of the pond holding an item in his hand. Evidence technicians began taking a closer look, although it wasn’t immediately clear what had been located.
Tristyn was reported missing to police by her family around 10 a.m. on Sunday. Dozens of community members formed search parties to go through wooded areas and areas near the North Amenity Center where she was last seen about 1:15 a.m.
A missing child alert was issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement by afternoon. The search was called off after the body was found by a neighbor just after 6 p.m., but no details were given.
Hardwick made the announcement about two hours later that they believed to have found her remains. Monday, that was confirmed.
“This was not the outcome the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office wanted, or this community (wanted),” Hardwick said. “This is a grieving community and we’re going to respect our grieving community.”
Shortly after Hardwick spoke Sunday night, the Sheriff’s Office issued a statement.
“This is a grieving community and we’re going to respect that grieving community. I ask that you put this out there and help us stand by this community and let them grieve together,” the statement said read.
Deputies said the investigation is still ongoing. Anyone who saw Tristyn between midnight and early Sunday evening is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-824-8304 or dial 911. Tips can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday morning, counselors were available at Patriot Oaks Academy, where Tristyn attended and was on the cheer squad. Many classmates at her school and several schools nearby wore white in her memory.
Neighbors are also shaken by the teenager’s death. Tristyn is remembered as a seventh-grade student, a cheerleader, a daughter, sister and a friend.
Deputies continue to be seen throughout the Durbin Crossing community. Crime scene tape remains up at two homes.
Many in the area have put aqua ribbons on their mailboxes after hearing that was Tristyn’s favorite color.
“My daughter told me to do it, So, I do it from my heart,” neighbor Endrna Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez felt a special compassion for the girl’s mother.
“Yesterday was a Mother’s Day,” Rodriguez said. “Every Mother’s Day, she’s going to be very sad.”