‘He is beyond saving’: Tristyn Bailey’s family asks for maximum sentence for killer in emotional hearing

Aiden Fucci pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 13-year-old schoolmate’s stabbing death

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Tristyn Bailey’s sister placed an empty jar on the witness stand.

When she began her victim impact statement Wednesday, Alexis Bailey turned to Judge R. Lee Smith and said, “114.”

She then began dropping heart-shaped, aqua-colored stones into the empty jar, making sure each one made an impact as it landed. The courtroom was silent during the nearly 2 minutes it took Alexis to drop in 114 stones.

“One for each of the 114 stab wounds that my sister had to endure,” Alexis said.

DAY 1: Grim medical examiner testimony, emotional victim impact statements on 1st day of Aiden Fucci sentencing

Her powerful testimony included pointed questions aimed at her sister’s killer, Aiden Fucci.

“Did she see you coming at her with the knife? Or did you stab her while she wasn’t paying attention? Did she scream out for help? Or was she paralyzed with agony? Did she cry for my mother? Did she beg you to stop?” Alexis said, glaring at Fucci from the witness stand. “What were her last words? Did you stay to watch her die? Or did you leave her there in agonizing pain as you ran away? How long did she suffer?”

UNCUT: Press play below to watch victim impact statements from Tristyn Bailey’s siblings:

Fucci, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and admitted to stabbing his schoolmate more than 100 times in the early morning hours of Mother’s Day in 2021, is facing a judge during a sentencing hearing this week before learning his fate on Friday.

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 does not involve a jury.

The second day of the hearing Wednesday began with victim impact statements, including from Tristyn’s best friend and six members of her family: three of her four siblings, her parents and one of her grandmothers.

“The memories of May 9 will forever be engrained in my mind, body and soul. To know I was awake and only 11 minutes away from my sister as she was being brutally murdered. Could I have saved her?” Alexis said. “Aiden Fucci didn’t just take Tristyn’s life that day. He took everything from us. Our family’s sense of security, laughs, health and sense of potential. For us, justice does not exist in this case and closure does not exist in this case. Peace, understanding and forgiveness will never come.”

Alexis isn’t the only Bailey sibling to struggle with self-blame.

“Every single day I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had I slept on that couch instead or if I’d stayed up later. Tristyn was a 13-year-old. She had a personality brighter than fireworks, and she was being a teenager,” Tristyn’s brother, Teegan Bailey, said. “Had I slept on that couch within earshot of the front door, there’s a possibility my little sister could still be alive today. I’ve lived with that question, that weight and that guilt since I went to wake up Tristyn on Mother’s Day and found her room empty.”

Tristyn’s eldest sister, Brittney Bailey Russell, recalled being out of the state when she got the news that Tristyn was missing. She looked pointedly at Fucci as she called him a “coward” and a “ruthless, unremorseful villain.”

“While I sit here publicly reliving tidbits of our worst nightmare, I recognize that none of these horrific memories will bring Tristyn back,” she said. “It truly just pains me more to have to relive them, to talk about it, to feel those feelings all over again like it happened yesterday.”

Tristyn’s mother recounted some of her own regrets surrounding Mother’s Day weekend 2021, saying she allowed Tristyn to go with a friend’s family to food truck Friday.

“This night is where the weekend starts to crumble in hindsight,” Stacy said. “You see, Your Honor, many kids that night planned to sneak out not thinking anything could go wrong. They just thought they were going to be having fun and hanging out together.”

Tristyn did sneak out the next night, after midnight. And she never came home.

“I carry the weight of this on my shoulders every single day,” Stacy said. “The guilt eats away at me. While I know it is not my weight to bear, it doesn’t change the fact that I feel this.”

UNCUT: Press play below to watch victim impact statements from Tristyn Bailey’s parents:

Stacy also described Tristyn’s room, which has remained untouched since that night.

“I can’t bear to change one thing, not even washing her clothes in the hamper as it would wash away the scent of her,” Stacy said. “I do not know if we’ll ever have comfort in our home again.”

At the end of each of their testimonies, Tristyn’s loved ones dropped a white, heart-shaped stone on top of the jar filled with aqua stones. As they added their white stone, they shared what it represented to them -- something Fucci had taken from them when he killed Tristyn.

Alexis said she lost her trust in people; Teegan said he lost his belief in people being good; Brittney said she lost her faith in school systems to keep violent children away from the innocent.

Tristyn’s maternal grandmother read both her own victim impact statement and one from Tristyn’s paternal grandparents. When she dropped in her white stone, she said it represented the emotional stability her family lost the day Tristyn was killed.

Tristyn’s best friend said her white stone represented her lost innocence, while Tristyn’s father, Forrest, said his stone represented all the good Tristyn would have done, but now never will.

Tristyn’s mother, Stacy, dropped in two white stones. One for her daughter, Sophia, who lost the chance to be a big sister, and one for herself, representing her lost joy, hope, future, “and my beautiful daughter.”

Each person who spoke asked the judge for the maximum sentence for Fucci. Alexis said anything less would be an insult.

“Justice is just a word for comfort. It doesn’t bring her back,” Brittney said. “It does nothing but put this inhumane cold-blooded killer away for good.”

Stacy pleaded with the judge on behalf of her youngest child and her family.

“Aiden Fucci made a heinous decision on May 9, 2021, and took the very life that I brought into this world,” she said through sobs. “Please do not for one second think that he could be rehabilitated at any point. He is beyond saving.”

The hearing is being streamed live on News4JAX.com and News4JAX+. The victim impact statements are being followed by the defense presenting its case.

Fucci’s grandmother, Deborah Spiwak, shared emotional testimony, saying she doesn’t know what would have caused her grandson to do something like this and offering a tearful apology to the Bailey family in the gallery, saying she prays for them every day.

“He has a good family, we don’t know what happened,” Spiwak said.

She described a silly, happy child, who grew up in a happy home.

“Please don’t take him out of our lives forever. I know there is some good in Aiden,” she told the judge.

UNCUT: Press play below to watch Aiden Fucci’s grandmother testify at sentencing hearing:

Psychologist Dr. Stephen Bloomfield testified for the defense Wednesday to counter testimony from a psychologist the state called on Tuesday. Clinical psychologist Dr. Greg Prichard said Tuesday that Fucci’s behavior was callous, and he doesn’t demonstrate that he can be rehabilitated.

Bloomfield disputed that and said adolescent brains are still developing and that he believed Fucci has shown remorse.

“Before the murder, I would say there was an excellent prognosis for Aiden to be rehabilitated,” Bloomfield said. Fucci spending time in jail has changed that, he said, but he thinks it’s still possible. “It won’t be easy. It won’t be quick. ... It requires a lot of work on both his part and the part of the people providing the services (in the Department of Corrections).”

Bloomfield also said he doesn’t think there’s enough evidence to definitely say Fucci’s actions were premeditated, countering what Prichard asserted on Tuesday.

“I don’t see how you can say they were premeditated. We don’t know what’s inside his head, his state of mind. We just don’t know,” Bloomfield said. “I don’t see the evidence for it.”

Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton took particular exception to that opinion from Bloomfield, challenging him during cross-examination to explain how he could come to that conclusion despite records of Fucci telling his girlfriend weeks before the murder that he was going to kill someone within a month and describing nearly exactly what happened to Tristyn.

“Are you telling this court that saying all of those things and then doing exactly that weeks later is not a premeditated thought to commit murder?” Dunton asked, incredulously.

“I think premeditated is a legal concept. The court will decide if it’s premeditated,” Bloomfield said. “I don’t know why he said it. I don’t know what he was saying. I don’t know how reliable (the girlfriend) is as a reporter. She has her own deficits. I don’t know the context of how this was talked about. I don’t know whether it was egged on. So I don’t know a lot of things. ... Premeditation, that’s not a psychological term, that’s a legal term. Lawyers and judges can make decisions about premeditation. I don’t feel I can based upon what was said.”

Fucci told the judge he has pictures he wants to submit to the court in addition to a letter he wrote. News4JAX has requested a copy of that letter.

Emotional victim impact statements on 1st day

Victim impact statements began at the end of the day Tuesday with tearful testimony from Tristyn’s all-star cheerleading coach, Breanna Cherry.

She said she calls 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.

Cherry, told the court nothing could have prepared her for the day she learned of Bailey’s murder -- or how to handle discussing it with the rest of Bailey’s squad.

Tristyn Bailey's all-star cheerleading coach Breanna Cherry gives a tearful victim impact statement during Aiden Fucci's sentencing hearing. (WJXT)

“How do you tell an 8-year-old child it’s going to be OK when they have to hear from the world around them that she was brutally murdered by her schoolmate?” Cherry asked. “It’s our job to protect our children. Due to the nature of this crime, there is no way to hide these details from these babies.”

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.

“I used to think about cute stories I’d share at her wedding one day. We used to joke about it all the time, embarrassing stories, I would say. Now, we’ll never have that day,” family friend Jennifer van Delden said. “Not just Tristyn’s life was taken that day. A piece of everyone close to her was taken, as well.”

Jennifer van Delden shares a victim impact statement during Aiden Fucci's sentencing hearing in the murder of Tristyn Bailey. (WJXT)

She said since Tristyn’s murder, she now suffers from diagnosed depression, panic attacks and anxiety. And the pain and anguish extend to her children, too.

“When I close my eyes, I think about the pain she must have suffered... that night, and I wish, so very much, that I could take that from her,” van Delden said.

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 and the heartfelt comments from those who loved Tristyn.

After Tuesday’s emotional day in court, Tristyn’s family posted a message on their Facebook page:

Community impact

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

Photo from vigil for Tristyn Bailey on Monday, May 9, 2022.

The murder

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.

RELATED: Tristyn Bailey: The murder that sent shockwaves through St. Johns County

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.

Divers recover knife from retention pond near Tristyn Bailey's body

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.

About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.

A Florida-born, Emmy Award winning journalist and proud NC A&T SU grad