Cheerleader Homicide: St. Johns, Florida

Who is Tristyn Bailey

Tristyn Bailey was a 13-year-old girl who was a cheerleader for Patriot Oak Academy; a local K-9 school. Bailey was not only a student but also an athlete, friend, daughter and sister. She was well known in the cheer sports community where she cheered for the Infinity All-stars and would travel to ESPN sports complexes in Orlando for summit cheer competitions with her team. She was considered the friendliest, most cheerful and the most spirited person on the team. Her teammates and friends remember her for her bright smile and big personality.

Who is Aiden Fucci

Aiden Fucci was 14 at the time of the crime, he was a fellow student at Patriot Oaks and lived near Bailey. In the months leading up to the court hearing, it was speculated Fucci may have mental health issues, although no mental therapist would be able to conduct an evaluation. And while in jail, Fucci refused to take any psychological evaluation without his attorney present.

In court, he stated he was on antidepressants. His best friend at the time told police he had a troubled home life and his violent obsessions were a way of coping.

The Tragic Story

On May 9, 2021, what should have been a heart-warming day of celebrating their mother for mother’s day turned out to be life-changing. It was at 10AM and Bailey’s family reported her missing once they realized she was not in the house. The missing report spread like a wildfire as neighbors and friends of the family went out to search for Bailey, who was last seen at 1:15 AM earlier that morning around the community center.

The police found out through the community neighbors and friends of the family about the tunnels and paths the children would use. Unfortunately, when they searched those areas, they were not able to find the girl. The police went house to house asking anyone with video cameras on their property if they had seen anything in them. They figured asking the neighbors would be a good idea, as there were more houses with video cameras than there were houses with nothing.

By 4:49PM that day, the police activated the missing child alert, asking anyone with information about Tristyn to contact law enforcement. Sadly, the alert did not last long as Tristyn Bailey’s body was found in a retention pond east of the cul-de-sac at 6:06 PM by a resident walking in the neighborhood. The sheriff Robert Hardwick made the heartbreaking announcement to the public that the missing teen’s body was found. The announcement rocked the family and community they lived in as they realized the missing teen was now a murder case.

The town became abuzz with rumors and questions of who did it and what happened. Some neighbors speculated multiple teens were responsible but the police stopped it all and told the community they had only one suspect: Aiden Fucci.

There was video evidence from the neighbor’s surveillance cameras that showed Bailey and Fucci walking around the neighborhood together. Fucci was identified as wearing a hoodie with his hood over his head and white Nike sneakers and jeans in the video. Bailey, who was definitely shorter than Aiden Fucci, was seen next to him wearing a black shirt, black pants and black shoes. A couple of hours later, Fucci is seen again on the camera, carrying his white sneakers and running back in the other direction toward his home. Bailey was not with him. Moments later, he is caught walking into his home carrying the white Nike shoes. As he was the last person to see Tristyn Bailey, he had volunteered to go with the deputies to show them where he was with her last. His story kept changing, according to the deputies.

At 8PM the same day Bailey’s body was found police brought Fucci and his parents to an interview room at St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. According to investigative reports, when Fucci’s parents told him Bailey was dead and he was the last person to be seen with her, he replied, “How is that my problem?”

A friend of both Bailey and Fucci told investigators he felt responsible because he had invited Bailey to his house that night.

The next morning at 12:44AM on May 10, police searched the Fucci’s home where they discovered a buck brand knife sheath, a pair of wet white Nike shoes with blood on them, a T-shirt with blood, a white piece of paper with some handwriting and possible blood and a pair of wet blue jeans in the laundry basket. The police also found blood and dirt on the drain in the bathroom sink that was next to Aiden’s bedroom. They soon discovered Fucci’s mother, Crystal, was seen scrubbing his blue jeans in the bathroom sink by his bedroom and police charged Crystal with tampering evidence, which is a third-degree felony. Both the sink and the wet jeans were tested later and both came back positive for blood.

Aiden Fucci was arrested at 3:30AM with the charge of second-degree murder. The Sheriff’s department identified the body found was indeed Tristyn Bailey’s and announced to the community Aiden Fucci had been arrested. Investigators later confirmed all the bloodstains on Fucci’s clothing and belongings were positive for Bailey’s blood and his DNA was found on her body.

At 1:30PM the Chief Medical Examiner determined the cause of death for Tristyn was sharp force trauma by stabbing. She was stabbed 114 times with a sharp object. Many of the stab wounds were defensive wounds and the tip of the knife had broken off in one of her wounds. The video surveillance of the two walking near the scene fit the time of death.

The Evidence Presented During Court

During the search of the Fucci room, investigators found a notebook which contained violent drawings with at least one gory drawing of a naked woman. According to the State Attorney R.J. Larizza, Fucci indicated to several witnesses he was going to kill someone by taking them into the woods and stabbing them. As those facts line up with the case presented. Larizza goes on to note this was a sign of premeditated murder and the number of stab wounds Bailey had endured was horrific.

A witness; Sgt. Kurt Hannon from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s office noted that Fucci’s best friends and girlfriend both described him as having a fascination with knives, carrying them with him and showing them off. Sergeant Hannon also mentioned he noticed Fucci was on his cellphone posting to Snapchat. The court were shown two videos; one where he talked about being in the back of a police car and the other asking the camera something like “Hey guys, anyone seen Tristyn Bailey lately?”.

The knife tip that was found in Bailey’s body matched a Buck knife the dive team investigators found in the retention pond. The knife had Bailey’s blood on it and investigators found it belonged to Fucci. The knife used in the killing of Tristyn Bailey was then matched to the knife sheath found in Fucci’s bedroom. He was initially charged with second-degree murder and held without bail.

While he was in jail during his trial period, there had been several incidents reported at the Duval County Jail that Fucci had to be sprayed twice with chemical restraint. The report also included Fucci had been threatening officers and extorting the other teen inmates, forcing them to provide him with items from the jail commissary.

The Sentencing

Aiden Fucci was now being charged with first-degree murder as there was evidence of premeditation and due to the brutality of the crime. He is now being charged as an adult. Fucci has continually changed his story throughout the proceedings and so his motive for the crime was never revealed and has remained a mystery even now.

Fucci pled guilty to Tristyn Bailey’s murder in February of 2023, just as his trial was set to begin after a long two-year continuance in the courts. The Bailey family asked the judge to sentence Fucci with the maximum punishment: a life sentence without parole.

Aiden Fucci was sentenced to life in prison but as he was only 14 years old when the crime was committed, there was an adjustment to the sentencing. Fucci will face a minimum of 40 years in prison with a possibility of a review after 25 years have been served. The review will give Fucci a possibility of a lighter sentence but the 40 year minimum will remain.

Why the Two-Year Long Trial

In May 2021, Aiden Fucci’s original attorney, Anwar Snobar, a private attorney who was hired by Fucci’s parents, withdrew from the case. The judge at the time, Joan Anthony, accepted the withdrawal. Fucci’s parents both asked the judge to declare indigency. This means they could not afford to pay for a lawyer and were seeking a public defender for Aiden Fucci’s Case. The judge accepted the application for indigency and appointed Fucci to be represented by a team of attorneys with a lead public defender.

Public defense attorney Rosemarie Peoples was representing Aiden Fucci back in July 2022 and wanted to push the trial date back to 2023 at the time. The motion for this was not surprising as Rosemarie had just acquired this case and needed time to look at the case. And more than 250 witnesses involved in the case needed to be interviewed to decide if the defense wanted them to stand on trial as witnesses. This is wise of Rosemarie, as she needs proper preparation. Being unprepared can cause the loss of a case at and proved very ineffective counsel representation.

Rosemarie requested Judge Lee Smith to prohibit media and public access to pretrial hearings or to close pretrial evidentiary hearings. As to “preserve and protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial and due process under the law.”

In the two year long time span, there were at least five public pretrials that took place in Fucci’s case in Smith’s courtroom. All of this was done in an attempt to procure a fair and impartial jury with jurors that did not know anything or at least not have made up their minds before the trial could start.

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Please do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know who is facing criminal charges. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable criminal law attorneys who are experienced in building a defense case for you that will suit your needs for the best possible outcome. We offer complimentary consultations via Zoom, on the phone or in-person.

Call us today at: 281-810-9760!

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