ST. JOHNS, Fla. – The murder of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey on Mother’s Day 2021 has impacted the entire community of Durbin Crossing in St. Johns County.
After a judge on Friday sentenced 16-year-old Aiden Fucci, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his schoolmate, to life in prison, News4JAX spoke with community members, who said the sentence sent a wave of relief across the area.
“Well, I’m happy that he got life very happy,” said St. Johns County resident Tonianne Holmes.
“I like it. I think he got what he deserved,” said a St. Johns County resident who did not wish to be named. “It’s devastating what is done to our community. We live in a great community, and it’s devastating what it’s done to our community.”
“I was glad, very happy. But, like I said, I believe in the death penalty. He should have gotten that for what he did,” said another St. Johns County resident who wanted to remain anonymous.
Fucci was 14 at the time of the crime, and because of his status as a juvenile, he was not eligible for the death penalty and his sentence will be reviewed in 25 years.
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“My reaction was that’s what he deserved. It was a little disheartening to hear that he is up for review in 25 years, but I know they had to do that because he’s not an adult. However, I felt a sense of relief just for the family and our community as well because he doesn’t deserve to be out,” said St. Johns County resident Ashley Archer.
The area is still marked with teal ribbons — Bailey’s favorite color — signs of solidarity with her family.
“Were glad to see that, hopefully, justice prevailed, justice was done,” said resident Donnie Ware. “Because that certainly, in my opinion, deserves a life sentence for that kind of a devastating act against someone as sweet and innocent as this young lady appeared to be.”
It was clear when speaking with residents of the neighborhood in St. Johns that the pain of this loss was felt not just by the family but everyone who knew the Baileys — and even those who didn’t
“We talked about it all the time, I mean, she was 13 when it happened — my daughter, as well. And you know, she didn’t understand how I was crying and heartbroken at another mother’s loss. She just didn’t get it,” Holmes said. “I mean, for two years, it’s all we’ve thought about happened right in our backyard.”
“When that happens, in a small enough community that we all knew somebody who knew the Baileys, and that really, when it’s when, you know, you know them from somebody else, or whatever, it just sits, even — it’s a heavier weight,” Archer said.
Although that weight will never completely be lifted, many in this community said they hope that members of the Bailey family know they are not carrying it alone.
In an emotional message after a life sentence was handed down for his daughter’s killer, Forrest Bailey acknowledged how much the support of family, friends and the community at large has meant to him over a grueling nearly two-year court process.
“As I look over I also see all of our friends and family — and it’s just a small sample of who could be here today — you’ve helped carry us throughout, and we appreciate and love each and every one of you,” he said.
Many of the people who News4JAX spoke with said they are parents themselves, and over the last two years, they have had more and more conversations with their children about safety and asking more about what they are doing with their friends and schoolmates.
“It really shook us up, and it really has made an impact,” Archer said. “I mean, we don’t think the same when we let our kids out.”
RELATED: Grim medical examiner testimony, emotional victim impact statements on 1st day of Aiden Fucci sentencing | ‘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 | After 2 days of grim, emotional testimony, what’s next in Aiden Fucci sentencing? | Aiden Fucci’s case draws memories of high profile 1998 murder trial that shook Jacksonville community
With Fucci being sentenced to life behind bars, many who News4JAX spoke with said they are hopeful the community, especially the Bailey family can find, if not comfort, at least some closure.
“Just seeing how hard the law enforcement, the first responders worked in the case and to see how they took it personally as if it were their own child, it is very encouraging just to know that everybody was involved and everybody took it to heart,” Archer said. “And to know that they treated her family as if it were their own, I do feel that we are able to move on just knowing that we have that peace of mind.”