JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Aiden Fucci pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Monday morning in the death of St. Johns County schoolmate Tristyn Bailey.
Fucci, 16, entered his plea right before jury selection was set to begin in the high-profile case.
Bailey, 13, was found stabbed to death on Mother’s Day in 2021.
Fucci stood before the judge and asked to make a brief statement to the court after he changed his plea from “not guilty.”
“I’m sorry for the Bailey family and my family,” Fucci said.
RAW COURT FEED: Judge questions Aiden Fucci as he enters guilty plea in murder of schoolmate Tristyn Bailey
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Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith asked Fucci a series of questions, including if he needed more time to go over his decision but Fucci declined. Fucci said he understands the decision and had enough time to talk about it with his parents and attorneys.
One of Fucci’s lawyers said that several defense offers had all been rejected by the state.
The judge noted it was a “straight plea deal” meaning it was not negotiated with prosecutors. The judge also asked Fucci if he is satisfied with how he was represented in court and Fucci said he was.
Judge Smith said Fucci will be able to make another statement at the sentencing hearing which is expected in March or April.
St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick issued a statement following the announcement of the guilty plea.
State Attorney R.J. Larizza also released a statement.
“Today was a major event in this case. We still have work to do and we will be diligently preparing for the sentencing hearing to hold the defendant accountable for his actions. We will be seeking the maximum sentence available under law – a life sentence.”
With the guilty plea, Fucci is facing the possibility of life in prison with a minimum sentence of 40 years. His sentence would be reviewed after 25 years, as required by law.
The evidence against Fucci was mounting heading into the trial.
The medical examiner determined the tip of a knife found in a nearby pond was found in Bailey’s scalp. Investigators said other evidence including blood and DNA linked Fucci to Bailey’s death. There’s also neighborhood surveillance video showing Bailey and Fucci walking together and later on, Fucci returning alone.
Investigators later said the jeans were wet because Fucci’s mother, Crystal Lane Smith, had tampered with evidence.
They said that during the afternoon Sunday — while Tristyn’s distraught family and neighbors were helping search for the missing teen — Smith was washing blood out of her son’s jeans in the bathroom sink.
When the jeans and sink were tested later, both came back positive for blood, investigators said.
Smith has been charged with tampering with evidence, which is a third-degree felony, and is out on bond awaiting trial.
BROADCAST COVERAGE: Aiden Fucci pleads guilty to first-degree murder in death of Tristyn Bailey
During the search of Fucci’s room, investigators also found a notebook that held violent drawings, including at least one gory drawing of a naked woman.
“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 of Fucci after revealing the shocking details of the attack. “The bottom line is that premeditation could be inferred, certainly from just the sheer number of stab wounds that Tristyn Bailey had to suffer. To say that it was horrific could arguably be made as an understatement.”
Larizza took the case to a grand jury, and Fucci was indicted May 27, 2021, on a first-degree murder charge. He is being tried as an adult.