Two days after her body was found in a wooded area near her home, authorities announced Tuesday afternoon how 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey died.
According to the chief medical examiner, Bailey’s death was a homicide caused by “sharp force trauma by stabbing,” the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office revealed in a news release posted to its Facebook page just before 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Bailey’s 14-year-old schoolmate, Aiden Fucci, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in her death.
“This is a cold-blooded murder by an individual who, I’m not even gonna give his name. He doesn’t even deserve for his name to be mentioned,” Sheriff Rob Hardwick said Tuesday. “This is a cold-blooded murder of a 13-year-old young girl who did not deserve to die.”
According to Fucci’s arrest report, he and Bailey were spotted together on surveillance video from the North Durbin Amenities Center, walking north at 1:14 a.m. Sunday.
The arrest report says two subjects were seen about 30 minutes later on a home surveillance camera walking east on Saddlestone Drive. One was wearing black pants and a black shirt, the clothes Bailey was wearing when her body was found hours later near a retention pond. The report said she had a “significant injury to her head” and “other trauma.” The medical examiner later determined she had been stabbed.
“Its definitely not an accident,” said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson. “You don’t accidentally stab someone multiple times.”
The other person in the video was wearing shorts, a light colored hooded sweatshirt and white shoes with a black Nike logo, police said. According to the arrest report, a little less than two hours later, at 3:27 a.m., only the person in shorts is seen walking back west on Saddlestone Drive, carrying the white shoes with the Nike logo.
Police said Fucci admitted in a conversation with his mother that was recorded in the interview room at the police station that he took his shoes off “because his feet hurt” and carried them home.
Police said the retention pond where Bailey was found was just to the east of the Saddlestone Drive cul-de-sac, about 0.3 of a mile from Fucci’s home, “which is consistent with the timeline established from the video surveillance,” the arrest report said.
Police said they found the clothes from the video at Fucci’s home, along with other “items of evidentiary value,” and that some of what they found had blood on it.
Police said Fucci’s statements changed several times during questioning but he ultimately made several admissions, which along with the evidence at the home and the video surveillance footage, led to his arrest.
“The fact that he changed his story several times shows he was trying to hide or conceal something,” Jefferson said.
Fucci appears in court
Fucci appeared in a Volusia County court Tuesday morning, as he is in custody with the Department of Juvenile Justice there following his arrest.
Fucci appeared before Circuit Judge Michael Orfinger at 8:30 a.m. via a Zoom conference call. The 7th Circuit State Attorney’s Office has not yet decided if he will be charged as an adult. While they make that determination, Fucci was ordered to be held in DJJ custody for the next 21 days.
[Click here to watch the full first appearance]
During the hearing, Fucci was seen closing his eyes, running his hands through his hair and he appeared to hold back tears. Dr. Justin D’Arienzo, a forensic and clinical psychologist who is not affiliated with the case, took a look at the video.
“I just saw a child that was exhausted, that was self soothing, that was overwhelmed and that was really scared,” he said.
D’Arienzo said the type of crime that Fucci is accused of is rare among children.
“Its very rare that pure and impulsive behavior would lead a 14-year-old boy to stab a 13-year-old girl,” he said. “Usually, when we dissect these cases, usually there is a history of something that led to that behavior.”
Both of Fucci’s parents were also on the Zoom call.
After the brief appearance, Fucci’s attorney, Andy Snober, told News4Jax by phone that he had no comment at this time.
Shannon Schott, a defense lawyer who specializes in juvenile law, pointed out minors aren’t eligible for the death penalty but said Fucci could feasibly face life in prison if he’s charged as an adult.
“I think based on the public outcry he could very likely be looking at adult sanctions,” said Schott, who is not connected to the case.
But if Fucci is not charged as an adult, Schott said, legally he could not be held in jail beyond age 21.
“You have to understand that the process for juvenile court would be rehabilitation, so an effort would be made to rehabilitate this child and address whatever led this child down this road as opposed to adult court where he would just go to prison and sit in prison,” Schott said.
The sheriff said it is still early in the investigation, and the charge or charges Fucci ultimately faces could change. According to a statement, the state attorney will decide whether it is appropriate to charge the teen as an adult.
“As Sheriff (Rob) Hardwick stated in his press conference today, our office will continue to investigate the case to determine both the appropriate charges going forward, and whether or not (Fucci) will be charged as an adult,” a State Attorney’s Office spokesperson said.
Hardwick said this going to be a long process.
“There are multiple crime scenes involved here,” Hardwick said. “Again we’re going to let our current investigations division do their due diligence and take their time to get this case right.”
The Sheriff’s Office announced Fucci’s arrest a little more than 24 hours after Bailey was reported missing.
Police said investigators zeroed in on Fucci after the girl’s body was found in a wooded area.
“Based on the discovery of the body and admissions during questioning, we refocused our investigative efforts,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
Since then, investigators spent hours searching Fucci’s home.
The Sheriff’s Office said they found several pieces of evidence at the house after obtaining search warrants. They are also looking into any potential evidence on social media.
The sheriff confirms the two teenagers went to the same school, Patriot Oaks Academy.
Bailey’s body was found in a wooded area about 6 p.m. Sunday by a neighbor who was out for a stroll, about eight hours after the girl’s family called 911 to report her missing, the sheriff said.
In a massive showing of support for Bailey’s family, members of the community gathered in St. Johns County for a large vigil Monday night to remember the 13-year-old.
Holding candles, people stood together at the South Durbin Crossing Amenity Center to pay their respects. Many wore the color aqua, Bailey’s favorite color.
The Bartram Bears also gathered for a candlelight vigil and prayer in remembrance of Bailey at 8 p.m. at Rivertown Fields.
Bailey was an athlete on two different cheer squads.
On Monday night, she was also remembered during a prayer circle at Infinity Allstars, a gymnastics center where she practiced.