ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Aiden Fucci, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and admitted to killing his 13-year-old schoolmate Tristyn Bailey in the early morning hours of Mother’s Day in 2021, will face a judge over the next several days before learning his fate later this week.
Fucci, 16, could spend the rest of his life in prison. As a juvenile when the offense occurred, he is not eligible for the death penalty, and his sentencing hearing will not involve a jury.
The hearing ended Tuesday with the start of victim impact statements, beginning with tearful testimony from Tristyn’s all-star cheerleading coach, Breanna Cherry.
She said she called her athletes her “cheer children” and that Tristyn was special and will be missed every day.
“Our team lost its leader, these teammates lost their sister, and I lost a piece of my heart that I can never get back,” she said.
RELATED: Tristyn Bailey: The murder that sent shockwaves through St. Johns County
A family friend and a mom of Tristyn’s classmate, who said Tristyn touched her son’s life by reaching out to him at school, also shared heartfelt victim impact statements.
Tristyn Bailey’s family wore aqua as they sat in the courtroom gallery Tuesday, listening to disturbing testimony about the moments before and after her brutal death.
Six members of her family will share victim impact statements Wednesday morning, and then the defense will present its case. Several juveniles will be testifying Wednesday, and News4JAX will not be showing their faces, so their testimony will be audio only.
After Tuesday’s emotional day in court, Tristyn’s family posted a message on their Facebook page:
Medical examiner, psychologist
The second half of the day began with graphic testimony from Dr. James Fulcher, the medical examiner for Volusia County, who explained in detail the more than 100 stab wounds Tristyn suffered. Photos from her autopsy were shown to the judge and attorneys but were not visible to the rest of the courtroom. Fulcher, however, vividly described the intensity of Tristyn’s injuries.
Fulcher said she was fighting for her life.
After the medical examiner, Dr. Greg Prichard, a clinical psychologist, testified about what he’d learned about Fucci from studying case filings and reports. He was never allowed to do an in-person evaluation of Fucci.
“He’s a really unique person in a bad way,” Prichard testified. “He’s demonstrating some things that are extremely concerning that we do not see in youth, that we often don’t see in youth murders.”
Prichard said Fucci told a friend in May 2021 to “expect me to kill somebody this month.” Fucci said he would walk around at night, drag them into the woods, stab them, then pretend he didn’t do it so he could keep killing people.
“He verbalized to peers very descriptively and similar to what happened to Tristyn Bailey. I would say that suggests to me some rehearsal, perhaps some premeditation,” Prichard said. “Even if you didn’t have that premeditation, though, he did clearly. It’s there. It’s in his head.”
The defense argued against Prichard testifying in the first place but Judge R. Lee Smith overruled the objection. Fucci’s attorney said the psychologist didn’t evaluate Fucci in person and in the documents he reviewed, no psychological testing was done on him.
The defense pointed to the possibility Fucci was depressed and that he and his peers showed risky behavior.
Prichard said Fucci’s behavior was callous, and he doesn’t demonstrate that he can be rehabilitated.
“He’s not demonstrating he can get better,” Prichard said. “You know, inflicting 114 wounds, it takes a long time. It doesn’t speak to impetuosity to take that long. There is thought going on in his head as this is playing out.”
The hearing started at 9 a.m. with testimony from a detective who responded to what was originally a search for Tristyn -- until her body was found in the woods at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Durbin Crossing neighborhood where both she and Fucci lived.
A crime scene tech then testified about documenting both the scene where Tristyn’s body was found and what was found inside Fucci’s home after he was identified as a suspect in her killing and investigators got a warrant to search his house.
The crime scene photos from Fucci’s home showed what looked like blood on his shoes wedged between a dresser and the wall and a T-shirt that was under the dresser. Both pieces of clothing had what appeared to be blood stains.
An analyst from the FDLE crime lab testified about the DNA that was found on those items of Fucci’s clothing -- and other items -- explaining that it was connected to both Tristyn and Fucci. She said DNA from a knife recovered by investigators matched Tristyn.
A stain on the back of Fucci’s shirt came back as connected to Fucci, Tristyn and a third unidentified person. Another item came back as connected to Fucci, Tristyn and the friend whose home they were at together before she was killed.
The analyst could not determine if that friend was the third person whose DNA was on the back of the shirt.
Fucci’s defense attorney focused on the fact that other DNA besides Tristyn and Fucci was found.
No one else was ever seen on camera with Tristyn in the neighborhood.
A St. Johns County sergeant testified about Snapchat photos and videos that were recovered from Fucci’s account the day he was arrested.
An undercover investigator testified about conversations captured on video between Fucci and his parents after he was taken into custody. Prosecutors played that recording from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office interview room, where Fucci told his parents they had nothing to worry about.
When his parents told him that Tristyn was dead and he was the last person seen with her, he replied, “How is that my problem?”
Hundreds of pages of victim impact statements were sent to Judge Smith on behalf of Tristyn’s family before the sentencing hearing. They give insight into just how much of an emotional toll Tristyn’s death has had on the entire St. Johns County community.
Smith denied a motion from Fucci’s defense Tuesday to have the letters excluded from the sentencing proceedings.
READ: Letters to Judge Smith 1 | Letters to Judge Smith 2 | Letters to Judge Smith 3 | Letters to Judge Smith 4
As they dealt with the aftermath, the community rallied around “The Bailey 7,” as her family dubs themselves, with ribbons around the neighborhood, charity walks and multiple memorial services with everyone wearing aqua — Tristyn’s favorite color.
Recently, her family shared photos and new details about Tristyn’s short life, saying they want her legacy to be about more than how she died.
RELATED: ‘Bailey 7′ remembers Tristyn Bailey’s life, legacy
Tristyn was last seen at home around midnight on Mother’s Day. It’s unclear when she left her house, but a friend told investigators that Tristyn and Fucci were at the friend’s house together, and Fucci told investigators he and Tristyn left together just after 1 a.m., walking north along North Durbin Parkway.
A surveillance camera captured the two walking together on a sidewalk toward the end of a cul-de-sac. Less than two hours later, Fucci is seen on the same camera, heading back in the other direction alone.
In the time in between, Fucci viciously attacked Tristyn with a knife, then tossed the weapon into a nearby retention pond.
Dive team investigators later recovered the knife from the pond, matched it to the one that killed Tristyn and connected it to Fucci, who was arrested in the early morning hours the day after Tristyn was killed.
RELATED: Hours after murder, Tristyn Bailey’s killer tried to send detectives in wrong direction
Her body was found in the woods at the end of a cul-de-sac, less than a half-mile from Fucci’s home in the Durbin Crossing neighborhood where Bailey also lived.
Fucci initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea last month, minutes before jury selection was set to begin in his trial.