Aiden Fucci pleads guilty to 1st-degree murder in fatal stabbing of classmate Tristyn Bailey

Fucci entered plea before jury selection was set to begin in case

Aiden Fucci enters a St. Johns County courtroom on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Aiden Fucci pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Monday morning in the death of St. Johns County classmate Tristyn Bailey, according to News 6 partner WJXT-TV.

Fucci, 16, entered his plea right before jury selection was set to begin in the high-profile case.

Bailey, 13, was found stabbed to death on Mother’s Day in 2021.

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Fucci stood before the judge and asked to make a brief statement to the court after he changed his plea from “not guilty.”

“I’m sorry for the Bailey family and my family,” Fucci said.

Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith asked Fucci a series of questions, including if he needed more time to go over his decision but Fucci declined. Fucci said he understands the decision and had enough time to talk about it with his parents and attorneys.

One of Fucci’s lawyers said that several defense offers had all been rejected by the state.

The judge noted it was a “straight plea deal” meaning it was not negotiated with prosecutors. The judge also asked Fucci if he is satisfied with how he was represented in court and Fucci said he was.

A judge on Tuesday ordered a 14-year-old boy accused of killing his 13-year-old classmate in St. Johns County to remain detained for 21 days or until another court order is issued.

Judge Smith said Fucci will be able to make another statement at the sentencing hearing which is expected in March or April.

St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick issued a statement following the announcement of the guilty plea.

“Aiden Fucci’s decision to enter a guilty plea today is nothing more than a testament to the hard work and dedication of the exceptional men and women of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office (SJSO). This was an allout agency effort. This was also an incredible community effort. The citizens of St. Johns County always show up and this case was no different. The immediate assistance from our community reaffirms the partnership we have with our citizens. The support they showed the Bailey Family was something special to witness. The trial preparation process is just as tedious as the investigation itself. The detectives have not stopped working this case since the initial call we received. The State Attorney’s Office immediately went to work upon Fucci’s arrest and has put forth countless hours to prepare for today. SJSO has worked hand-in-hand with the State Attorney’s Office and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the partnership. Additionally, I’d like to thank the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for their unwavering assistance since the start of this case.

Lastly, the cooperation between our agency and the Bailey Family has been unparalleled. Their strength and grace throughout this case has been incredible. This agency will forever be connected to the Bailey Family and this community will forever be #BaileyStrong.”

St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick

With the guilty plea, Fucci is facing the possibility of life in prison with a minimum sentence of 40 years. His sentence would be reviewed after 25 years, as required by law.

The evidence against Fucci was mounting heading into the trial.

The medical examiner determined the tip of a knife found in a nearby pond was found in Bailey’s scalp. Investigators said other evidence including blood and DNA linked Fucci to Bailey’s death. There’s also neighborhood surveillance video showing Bailey and Fucci walking together and later on, Fucci returning alone.

Investigators later said the jeans were wet because Fucci’s mother, Crystal Lane Smith, had tampered with evidence.

They said that during the afternoon Sunday — while Tristyn’s distraught family and neighbors were helping search for the missing teen — Smith was washing blood out of her son’s jeans in the bathroom sink.

When the jeans and sink were tested later, both came back positive for blood, investigators said.

Smith has been charged with tampering with evidence, which is a third-degree felony, and is out on bond awaiting trial.

Investigators later confirmed that all the blood stains on Fucci’s belongings tested positive for Tristyn’s DNA and that Fucci’s DNA was found on Tristyn’s body.

During the search of Fucci’s room, investigators also found a notebook that held violent drawings, including at least one gory drawing of a naked woman.

“He indicated to several witnesses that he was going to kill someone by taking them in the woods and stabbing them, which are certainly the facts of this case,” State Attorney R.J. Larizza said of Fucci after revealing the shocking details of the attack. “The bottom line is that premeditation could be inferred, certainly from just the sheer number of stab wounds that Tristyn Bailey had to suffer. To say that it was horrific could arguably be made as an understatement.”

Larizza took the case to a grand jury, and Fucci was indicted May 27, 2021, on a first-degree murder charge. He is being tried as an adult.

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