ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Aiden Fucci, the St. Johns County teenager charged with the brutal stabbing death of his schoolmate, 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, appeared in court Wednesday and learned that his murder trial will start in November.
Judge Lee Smith set the final pretrial hearing date for Oct. 26 and blocked off two weeks for Fucci’s trial: Nov. 7-18.
Several of Bailey’s family and friends filled the gallery for Wednesday’s hearing, many wearing aqua -- her favorite color.
Fucci, who is charged with first-degree murder and will be tried as an adult, is expected back in court May 5 for a status update. He has pleaded not guilty.
Fucci, now 15, was arrested the day after deputies found Bailey’s body near their homes in the Durbin Crossing community. Investigators say his DNA was on Bailey’s body.
Fucci had a private attorney very briefly after his arrest but then he was declared indigent, meaning he can’t afford to pay for his own lawyer so the court appointed a public defender, meaning taxpayers will pay to defend him.
At the last hearing in October, the public defender appointed to represent Fucci said he and the prosecutor both have a death penalty trial in March, meaning most depositions in the Fucci case won’t be scheduled until after that. His attorney has not asked for a mental competency evaluation.
Fucci’s behavior during court appearances has varied. On Wednesday, a tattoo of a cross was visible on his middle finger.
In October’s pretrial hearing, he seemed alert and didn’t say much. Members of Bailey’s family sat in the audience then too.
Back in September, Fucci looked perplexed and talked about demons during a virtual pretrial hearing.
According to court records, Fucci’s girlfriend told an investigator he would hear voices that would tell him to kill people. Investigators also said Fucci had a notebook that contained violent and Satanic drawings.
“Obviously you’ve got to look at mental health and you’ve got to look at whether he is competent to stand trial,” said LaFonda Middleton, a criminal defense attorney who has represented juveniles.
She said if this case goes to trial in November because a grand jury indicted him for first-degree murder, he will be treated as an adult but he is NOT eligible for the death penalty.
“It doesn’t change his trial or his potential sentence. However, because he is a juvenile, he will come up for review of his sentence once he’s been sentenced as an adult,” explained Middleton, who is not connected with the case.
So if convicted, in 25 years, Fucci could ask a judge for a lighter sentence. We’ve also seen in the past where high-profile cases have been postponed or moved to another area.
Fucci’s mother, Crystal Smith, will also have a status hearing update May 5 on separate charges, including tampering with evidence. Investigators said she washed blood off her son’s blue jeans while he was being questioned.
The state and defense are asking to keep her case lined up with Fucci’s case for now because of overlapping discovery and depositions for witnesses.
Bailey’s body was found on Mother’s Day -- stabbed dozens of times -- less than a half-mile from Fucci’s home.
Fucci is in custody at the Duval County jail while he awaits trial.