Body found in search for missing 13-year-old Florida girl

Missing child alert was issued for Tristyn Bailey

St. Johns County Sheriff's Office investigating death of Tristyn Bailey
St. Johns County Sheriff's Office investigating death of Tristyn Bailey (WJXT)

The search for a 13-year-old girl last seen early Sunday morning in her Durbin Crossing neighborhood ended 16 hours later when searchers found a body the St. Johns County sheriff believes to be of the missing teenager, News 6 partner WJXT-TV reported.

Dozens of neighbors helped deputies search for 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey on Sunday.

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She was reported missing to police by her family around 10 a.m. on Sunday. People formed search parties to go through wooded areas, or areas near the North Amenity Center where she was last seen.

St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick made the announcement that they believed to have found the body of the girl just before 8 p.m. Sunday.

“This was not the outcome the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office wanted, or this community (wanted),” Hardwick said. “This is a grieving community and we’re going to respect our grieving community.

The Sheriff’s Office would not say where the body was found or if anyone was in custody in connection with her death, but only that they are talking to lots of people to gather information.

“This is the early stage of a very, very complex investigation,” Hardwick said.

Deputies are looking for evidence at the Amenity Center where she was last seen. News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson says this could take all night.

“The focus now becomes, Who did it? What’s the circumstance behind what they did how they did it?” Jefferson said.

Deputies said the investigation is still ongoing. Anyone who saw Tristyn between midnight and early Sunday evening is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-824-8304 or dial 911. Tips can also be emailed to crimetips@sjso.org.

Late Sunday night, the Sheriff’s Office released an update saying the body was found in the “immediate area” and, “We do not believe there is a threat at this time and the community can stand down from any further search efforts.”

Tristyn was reported missing Sunday morning by family after she was last seen around 1:15 a.m. at an amenities center in the Durbin Crossing neighborhood, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

On Sunday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office Unified Command Center and a Crime Scene Unit van were parked at nearby Veterans Park. Dozens of neighbors and volunteers were also at the park to help look for the teen.

Around 4:50 p.m., FDLE issued a missing child alert for Tristyn. About an hour later, a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told News4Jax that they just sent out an “Alert St. Johns” to the area, asking for the community’s help and parents to ask their children if they know anything.

Tristyn’s father posted a message on Facebook, saying: “For everyone that is trying to help find our daughter we cannot thank you enough.”

The teen’s school, Patriot Oaks Academy, sent a message to its families, saying the seventh-grader was missing and asking people to contact law enforcement with any information.

“I am asking for your prayers on behalf of her family,” the message read.

It is expected that grief counselors will be at the school Monday morning.

Tristyn was on a cheer squad at the school. Her coach described her as a loving young lady and a natural leader.

“She is just the most cheerful, most spirited friendliest person,” Courtney Sparks said. “(She) is down to basically do whatever really to like help unite the team. Whatever it takes for like the team to get to the next level, she’s the person to like help push the team forward.”

A friend who said she spoke to her Saturday night on SnapChat described her as “a really nice, sweet girl.”

Tamalyn Jones, who lives in another neighborhood nearby, also came out to help search.

“I grabbed my son and said we would want the same thing done for my daughter his sisters,” Jones said. “So we came on over and we couldn’t believe when we saw the outpouring of everybody here.”

News4Jax is told there will be a candlelight vigil for Tristyn at 8:30 p.m. Monday in the Durbin Amenity Center.