ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that some might find graphic in nature. Reader discretion advised.
The teenager initially charged with second-degree murder in the death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, is now being tried as an adult for first-degree murder.
R.J. Larizza, state attorney for Florida’s Seventh Judicial Circuit, said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in St. Johns County that the decision to upgrade the charges against Aiden Fucci, 14, was appropriate based on the circumstances surrounding Bailey’s death.
“It’s a sad decision, and a sad state of affairs. But it was clear to us after we looked at what happened, that it was not only appropriate to charge the defendant as an adult, but it was really the only choice that we can make,” Larizza said.
Bailey, the state attorney said, was stabbed 114 times.
“To say that it was horrific could arguably be made as an understatement,” Larizza said.
He said at least 49 wounds were to Bailey’s hands, arms and head and were “defensive in nature.”
“The bottom line is that premeditation, could be inferred, certainly from just the sheer number of stab wounds that Tristyn Bailey had to suffer,” Larizza said.
The state attorney said there was more that led them to the decision to charge Fucci as an adult. He said the decision came after information investigators gathered from witnesses and that Fucci made statements to several people “that he intended to kill someone.” Larizza said it was never specified who.
“He indicated to several witnesses that he was going to kill someone by taking them in the woods and stabbing them, which are certainly the facts of this case,” Larizza said.
According to the state attorney, Fucci had a knife, which was found in a pond in close proximity to Bailey’s body.
The tip of the knife, Larizza said, had broken off and was found by the medical examiner in Bailey’s body.
The state attorney said that furthermore, investigators located DNA evidence from Fucci on Bailey’s body. He said that Bailey’s DNA was also found on shoes belonging to Fucci that were found in his bedroom.
“I hope that parents will learn something from this, this vicious and brutal murder, and that is that you need to know what your kids are doing and what they are saying,” Larizza said. “Because while we might not be able to stop these brutal and vicious murders from happening, we ought to at least try.”
Affidavit: Fucci told investigators he & Bailey were in argument
According to the warrant affidavit from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Fucci was interviewed by detectives who were investigating Bailey’s disappearance.
The affidavit states that Fucci’s story to detectives changed several times, but that he made several admissions. It states Fucci admitted to walking along North Durbin Parkway and getting into an argument with Bailey, “in which he forcefully pushed the victim to the ground, causing her head to strike the ground.”
At 1:45 a.m., the warrant states, two people believed to be Bailey and Fucci were seen walking east along Saddlestone Drive. It states that surveillance video at 3:27 a.m. captured who is only believed to be Fucci walking west on Saddlestone Drive and carrying a pair of white Nike shoes.
According to the affidavit, the white pair of Nikes that were found in Fucci’s room, as well as a hooded sweatshirt, contained blood stains that later came back as Bailey’s DNA.
The warrant states that two “witnesses/friends” of Fucci said the recovered Buck brand folding knife appeared identical to a knife that Fucci was known to carry.
A neighborhood that will always remember
A memorial for Bailey in the Durbin Crossing neighborhood remained standing Thursday.
Many residents who spoke with News4Jax said were relieved to learn Fucci will be tried as an adult. The details revealed by the State Attorney’s Office in regard to Bailey’s death bring heartbreak.
“My heart hurts. It hurts. I just don’t understand,” said Dana Garrison, a resident. “It’s like you want an answer, but I don’t think there’s going to be an answer that’s going to give you a good feeling.”
Tina Sherma, a resident, said the findings reported Thursday bring a sense of awareness.
“Somehow, someway it kind of make a red flag, and it’s better to be cautious than unsure,” Sherma said.
News4Jax visited Fucci’s address for comment. No one answered the door.
Bailey’s body was found on Mother’s Day near a retention pond in a cul-de-sac in the Durbin Crossing subdivision, less than a half-mile from Fucci’s home, according to an arrest report. The discovery was made by a neighbor out for a walk around 6 p.m., roughly eight hours after Bailey’s family called 911 to report her missing.
Earlier this month, thousands of community members signed change.org petitions, asking the State Attorney’s Office and Gov. Ron DeSantis to charge Fucci as an adult and with first-degree murder.