After 2 days of grim, emotional testimony, what’s next in Aiden Fucci sentencing?

St. Johns County judge scheduled to sentence Fucci on Friday

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Aiden Fucci murdered Tristyn Bailey in the early morning hours of Mother’s Day in 2021. That much is certain.

Fucci, now 16, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, admitting to brutally stabbing the 13-year-old more than 100 times in the woods at the end of a cul-de-sac in the quiet Durbin Crossing neighborhood.

Whether Fucci took his buck knife and ended Tristyn’s life with it was not in question this week as investigators, psychologists and family members of both Tristyn and Fucci testified during a sentencing hearing in St. Johns County.

What was in question — and still is: How long Fucci will spend in prison for the crime? We should learn that answer Friday.

RELATED: ‘He is beyond saving’: Tristyn Bailey’s family asks for maximum sentence for killer in emotional hearing | Closing arguments made in Aiden Fucci’s trial; judge to determine whether he gets life | ‘I’m sorry for all the pain I caused’: Aiden Fucci, relatives write letters to judge, Tristyn Bailey’s family

His defense attorneys have asked Judge R. Lee Smith to sentence Fucci to 40 years with a 25-year review.

Prosecutors want him to spend the rest of his life in prison. And during a powerfully emotional day in court Wednesday, Tristyn’s loved ones made it very clear they agree.

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

The only family member who came to speak on Fucci’s behalf was his grandmother, who offered a tearful apology to the Bailey family in the gallery and begged the judge not to sentence him to life.

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

Fucci’s mother, Crystal Smith, didn’t come to court, instead sending a letter to Judge Smith, asking for mercy and saying “he is not beyond saving.”

Mom’s charge

Crystal Smith explained in her letter that her attorney had advised her not to come to court in person to speak on Aiden’s behalf. That’s likely because she has her own case pending in St. Johns County court — for tampering with evidence in her son’s case. Investigators said she washed blood off her son’s blue jeans while he was being questioned.

Prosecutors on Thursday released a new video, which was played in court this week, showing Fucci talking with his parents in the holding room after he was taken into custody. Some of that video relates to Crystal Smith’s charge.

Booking photo of Crystal Smith (St. Johns County Sheriff's Office)

Shortly after Tristyn was found dead, his parents tell Fucci the news, explaining that it’s very serious for him because he was the last one seen with the girl.

Later in the conversation, his mom says “We’re going to go home and get your clothes ... the clothes you were wearing.” Fucci tells his dad there shouldn’t be anything on his clothes. Then there’s this exchange with his mother:

Mom: You wore khakis or blue jeans?

Fucci: Blue jeans

Mom: You sure there’s nothing on those pants?

Fucci: Don’t think so

*Mom nodding her head yes*

Fucci: What?

*Mom keeps nodding*

Mom: When we looked on the camera, you were wearing khakis.

***Long pause***

Mom: Right?

Fucci: Mmhmm

When investigators checked the cameras in Fucci’s home, what they saw was Crystal Smith, washing her son’s blue jeans while he was with investigators on the afternoon of May 9 — before Tristyn had been found. Both the jeans and the drain in the sink where Smith was seen washing the jeans later tested positive for blood, according to her arrest warrant.

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

During testimony this week, it was brought up that DNA could not be found on the jeans, and one of the prosecutors asked — pointedly — if someone washing the jeans would prevent DNA from being found. The investigator testifying said yes.

After Fucci is sentenced, Crystal Smith’s case is set for trial next month.

Closing arguments

As she recapped the state’s argument to keep Fucci behind bars for the rest of his life, Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton spoke directly to Judge Smith and broke down her closing, starting with the nature and circumstances of the offense. Dunton explained that the images Smith viewed of Bailey’s body would be a visual he wouldn’t soon forget.

Even without seeing the photos, the testimony explained how 49 of her 114 stab wounds were defensive -- meaning Bailey was conscious and alive during the attack. Dunton also referred to testimony of the force it must have taken to cause the amount of wounds, and that six of the wounds would have been fatal.

(Click image below to watch Wednesday’s closing arguments)

Dunton then spoke of the circumstances that led up to the crime, “the defendant’s verbalization that he wanted to kill someone.” Fucci told this to his girlfriend, court records show.

“He said it would be at night, he would drag someone into the woods and he would stab them, and it would happen within a month. He said he would act innocent, keep killing and run away,” Dunton said.

She then referred to Dr. Gregory Prichard’s testimony.

“He said that this act was extremely unique, and extremely violent for anyone to commit, let alone a juvenile,” Dunton said.

Dunton then gave statistics that show how homicides among juveniles are rare and unique. And that the outliers, incorrigible juveniles, deserve the worst punishment.

She said Fucci is one of them.

Tristyn Bailey

Dunton then moved on to the victimization of the Bailey family. She explained how the family and the community have suffered immeasurable loss — that this is a unique case that touched the community in a unique way.

The vigils, the memorials, the more than 100 letters written to the judge.

Dunton then referenced testimony about Fucci’s disciplinary problems in school and the comparison to similar children his age.

“They all stated that he knew the difference between right and wrong, and he understood risk and consequences. It’s just whether he wanted to or not,” she said.

Fucci’s parents and grandmother were also mentioned in Dunton’s closing arguments. She talked about how there was no report of abuse or neglect in Fucci’s household.

Dunton made a point of Fucci’s impetuous behavior. She then spoke directly to the judge.

“For all the evidence we presented in this case, of all of the factors in showing you who Aiden Fucci is, the uniqueness of this crime, all of that shows you that this particular juvenile should be sentenced to the harshest penalty possible, which is life in prison. And he will be entitled to a 25-year review,” Dunton said.

Aiden Fucci's sentencing process begins

When defense attorney Rosemarie Peoples took to the podium for closings, she said, “When this kind of crime visits a family, every word the defense has to say, every motion, every argument can only seem like minimization of the pain to the family and survivors.

“But we can’t go backwards in time,” Peoples added. “We can’t undo the action. The only thing that we can do today is answer the question of a sentence.”

Peoples showed the court photos of a happy and very young Fucci.

She then spoke about what Fucci did not do after the crime. He didn’t bury the body or try to hide it.

During Peoples’ closing argument, she continued to show various photos of Fucci smiling as a young child.

Peoples talked about Fucci’s maturity and how his brain will continue to form and grow. She spoke about how he apologized on Feb. 6, the first time he was allowed to speak in open court. Peoples reminded the judge that her client is a child, and not mature.

“We heard that he was neglected emotionally, that his father was physically abusive, and there is the constant movement. Every Tuesday and Thursday and every other weekend he was in a different house,” Peoples said.

Fucci’s family history with mental illness was also included in the closing argument. Peoples also spoke about Fucci’s diagnosis of ADHD, and that he didn’t get the therapy he needed.

“The 40-year sentence doesn’t make light of what happened on Mother’s Day in 2021,” Peoples said. “It still is punishment.”

About the Authors:

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

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.