St. Johns County sheriff, community react to Aiden Fucci pleading guilty to murder in Tristyn Bailey’s death

Sheriff Hardwick says his agency ‘will forever be connected to the Bailey Family’

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Community members shared their reactions Monday to Aiden Fucci pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the death of his 13-year-old St. Johns County schoolmate Tristyn Bailey.

St. Johns Sheriff Robert Hardwick released a statement regarding the plea:

RELATED: Tristyn Bailey: The murder that sent shockwaves through St. Johns County | Tristyn Bailey’s family says guilty plea brings ‘significant relief,’ is milestone in ‘journey of justice’ | St. Johns County sheriff, community react to Aiden Fucci pleading guilty to murder in Tristyn Bailey’s death | What’s next for Aiden Fucci?

Fucci, now 16, entered his plea Monday morning—just before jury selection was set to begin in his trial.

News4JAX Insiders shared their thoughts on the plea by Fucci, who went to Patriot Oaks Academy in St. Johns with Bailey.

“This was best for the family to spare them the trauma of a trial,” said Insider “Like I Said.”

“Good, saves her family the agony of going through a trial. And saves the taxpayers some money,” said Insider “Robyn.”

“Only good choice that kid has made in a long time,” said Insider “tigerfamilyman.”

Bailey was found stabbed to death on May 9, 2021, Mother’s Day, in Durbin Crossing, less than a half-mile from Fucci’s home in the neighborhood where Bailey also lived. Fucci, who was 14 at the time, was arrested in the early morning hours of the next day.

On Monday, aqua ribbons could be seen wrapped around trees in Durbin Crossing. Aqua was Bailey’s favorite color.

On Monday, aqua ribbons could be seen wrapped around trees in Durbin Crossing. Aqua was Bailey’s favorite color.

When News4JAX spoke with people in the community, and many shared the sentiment that the guilty plea will spare the family from continuing to suffer through a trial. They said they hope the move provides the family some closure and solace.

“I hope it brings some closure to the family,” said resident Chris Walters. “I feel like everyone affected will at least have a little bit of weight off their shoulders.”

“Tears. I cried because now the family doesn’t have to go through a trial and see everything and go daily, day after day in court, and try and fight to get justice for their daughter, who this never should have happened to,” said a St. Johns County resident named Jane.

Her mailbox was among many decorated with a teal ribbon — a symbol of support for Bailey’s family, letting them know that their neighbors are standing with them and are grieving with them.

“All three of my boys, they went to school. They cried. They went to [Patriot Oaks Academy]. They went to Creekside [High School]. My youngest is getting ready to graduate, and yeah, it’s affected a lot of people in the community. It’s a, kind of, feel — a little bit of fear,” said St. Johns County parent Rod Wright.

For Wright and others, the plea sent a sigh of relief across the area.

“It’s a good thing for everybody. You know, just you’re guilty. Go to, you know, go do your time. Go away,” Wright said.

Resident Wambui Mbuthia says the neighborhood has not been the same.

“I live in Durbin Crossing the townhomes, and we have the teal (bows) everywhere. So it was amazing to see them all come together to support their family, and try and get that justice for Tristyn,” Mbuthia said.

Some danger still remains — directed at Fucci — but also his mother, Crystal Smith, who was arrested on a charge of tampering with evidence. Investigators said she washed blood off her son’s blue jeans while he was being questioned.

News4JAX caught up with another St. Johns County resident named Bess as she spoke with her son.

“As a mother, I’m talking to my grown 40-something-year-old son. I’m a senior. I told him I would go to the end of hell if he was in the right. But if he does something wrong, like murder somebody, he goes to jail, that’s the wrong thing,” she said.

Fucci is facing the possibility of life in prison with a minimum sentence of 40 years.


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Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.