Parents of Tristyn Bailey navigate unwanted spotlight after Tristyn’s death

Nearly two years later, Tristyn Bailey’s parents open up about everything they’ve been through now that her killer Aiden Fucci has been sentenced

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Chronicling their heartbreak, pain and strength, the parents of Tristyn Bailey gave their first sit-down interview on Thursday to talk about losing their 13-year-old daughter and pushing forward with her legacy.

“I think that you just have to try to find the faith because I have questioned it every single day because I don’t understand and so I question God a lot. Why her? And so you just have to hold onto the faith of, maybe there was a reason,” Tristyn’s mother Stacy Bailey said.

Last week, a judge sentenced Tristyn Bailey’s killer to life in prison for brutally stabbing her in St. Johns County on Mother’s Day in 2021. State law mandates that his punishment will be reviewed after 25 years.

RELATED: Tristyn Bailey: The murder that sent shockwaves through St. Johns County | Click here to donate to the Tristyn Bailey foundation

The Baileys have been through unimaginable anguish over the past 22 months and said no one can imagine how horrible the experience has been unless they’ve walked in their shoes. Despite it all, they’re determined to make a difference and focus on the good they can do in the community.

Forrest, Tristyn and Stacy Bailey. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

The parents described their daughter as energetic, ready to go and able to roll with anything.

“Beautiful, kind, the sassiness was always there, but it was always in fun spirit,” Stacy Bailey said.

A vibrant teen who meant everything to her family, her mother and father Stacy and Forrest said happy memories bring light in the darkest times.

Nearly two years later, Bailey’s parents are opening up about everything they’ve been through now that her killer has been sentenced. It’ll never be easy for them and Tristyn’s siblings and their pain has been on display for the world to see.

During the interview with News4JAX, both parents struggled to keep their emotions in check when talking about their daughter.

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 | Aiden Fucci’s case draws memories of high profile 1998 murder trial that shook Jacksonville community

“The process has been very challenging to go through going with the legal proceedings and now also as we transition and start doing more about the legacy, but we’re still doing a lot with that grief that we have so we’ve been very thankful of the support,” Forrest Bailey said.

‘The right verdict’: Tristyn Bailey’s family reacts to killer’s sentence, offers warning for other families

Stacy Bailey said she’s not sure when her family would be without the support they have received.

“We struggled with it every day. Like it’s hard to be in our house, it’s hard to be, to know she’s not there. Sometimes you want to leave, but if we left, we wouldn’t have the safety of our neighborhood, and the people that look out for us. I do not know where I would be,” she said.

The case against Fucci, 16, has been difficult to watch, they said, as horrific testimony and graphic evidence took center stage. The family said they were relieved the teen pleaded guilty, avoiding trial, but they still had to hear about Tristyn’s final moments last week at sentencing.

“It’s probably one of the things that is as heart-wrenching to us is Tristyn really had very little interaction with Aiden. They had one class together in school but didn’t interact a lot in that class. And as it was well known, she was extremely busy with cheer and wasn’t running out with those groups that often, but she did know [another schoolmate] and Aiden was trying to find somebody that night. And what we know is that there were several people he tried to reach out to you before and then he ultimately asked [the schoolmate] for her contact information and that’s how he got a hold of her,” Forrest Bailey said.

To be clear, no other teens have been charged even though investigators said Fucci outlined detailed plans to kill someone.

“How do you feel about that other juvenile and Aiden’s girlfriend at the time knowing that something was going to happen, and ultimately not coming forward to potentially prevent that from happening?” News4JAX asked.

“Not so good,” Stacy Bailey said. “It’s pretty bad and I think that a lot of the kids say I didn’t think it was real, I thought they were joking. I’m pretty sure that’s not something that’s funny. I don’t know how his girlfriend thought that it was a joke when he was doing those things to her and I think that kids today need to realize there’s a fine line between joking and seriousness, and there are things that you don’t joke about and that’s one of them and I really wish that they had taken it seriously.”

Stacy Bailey with daughter Tristyn. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Tristyn’s parents believe if it wasn’t their daughter, it would have been someone else’s.

“There were so many warning signs that were definitely ignored in this situation. That’s hard to stomach. It’s hard to know that there were things that happened just a month prior too that were clear, clear warning signs and adults ignored them and kids ignored them and my child might be there,” Stacy Bailey said. “A lot of parents out there who would say my child would never sneak out. Don’t say that because you don’t know. We did not think that our child would sneak out either, but she did. And there’s a lot of peer pressure out there in the world. And I think you need to not be naïve to what your kids can do. I mean, she certainly did not think she was going out that night and not coming home.”

Despite it all, they believe there is more good than evil in the world and they’re determined to make a difference in Tristyn’s honor. They said it’s what she would have wanted. So the Baileys have launched a foundation with a long list of goals including:

  • Scholarships for those who make the community better
  • Self-defense classes for teens to protect themselves
  • Helping families be aware of present-day dangers
  • Community support for the families of other crime victims

“We have so much love and pride in what Tristyn did while she was here, and we are very committed to taking that forward and truly honoring her spirit. And then continuing to just look at the love and faith within the community. It’s not easy, but it’s deliberate, it’s our focus, and it’s gotten us to this point,” Forrest Bailey said.

The parents spoke about so many more things like holding the family together, whether they will ever forgive the killer, and their warnings for families so this doesn’t happen again.

Forrest Bailey said he wrestles with the idea of forgiveness on a regular basis.

“I am learning not to move forward and carry the negative feelings, having him sentenced to life, knowing that he can’t hurt others gives me a little bit of relief,” he said.

“I will never forgive him,” Stacy Bailey said. “How can you? How can I? How can anyone? He took everything from our family and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with never being able to forgive him. Because I don’t think that it’s a forgivable act.”

Do they believe Fucci’s apology that he made in court?

“No. As you said, we sat in that court through all the pre-trials, through all of his sessions, and did not see any type of reaction from him that really showed any type of remorse,” Forrest Bailey said.

“He was void of anything, but I know he had emotion, because when he did, when his grandmother got up there, that was the first time that he had emotion so you knew that he cares about her. For our situation, there was nothing,” Stacy Bailey said.

There’s only one thing they wouldn’t talk about on Thursday and that’s the case against Fucci’s mother who’s accused of washing the blood off his clothes after the murder. That case is still open and they don’t want to interfere.

The Baileys are well aware that so many other families are suffering. They spoke to News4JAX on the heels of a deadly school shooting in Nashville and they know people get killed in our community every day. They say through their foundation, they hope to work with more families of crime victims to guide them through the most difficult times of their lives.

“If there’s one thing I’d like to see people do with this it is spending time with their loved ones and recognizing that when you were just breaking bread together that is important. And doing something when you’re playing a game, you’re setting the phones aside, you’re talking with one another, whatever those things are I think that’s the starting point of that community,” Forrest Bailey said.

If you’d like to contribute to the Tristyn Bailey foundation, you can visit the website here.

Attorney: Tristyn Bailey's family focused on teenager's life, legacy

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.