ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Aiden Fucci was back in a St. Johns County courtroom Thursday morning to begin the next phase in his murder case. The 16-year-old will be formally sentenced next month and could face a possible life sentence, according to News 6 partner WJXT-TV.
Earlier this month, Fucci stunned the courtroom by pleading guilty to first degree murder in the death of his 13-year-old schoolmate, Tristyn Bailey. This happened just minutes before jury selection was set to begin in his trial.
During that guilty plea, Fucci apologized in court.
“I’m sorry for the Bailey family and my family,” Fucci said.
During the status hearing Thursday, Judge R. Lee Smith set a tentative sentencing date for Fucci for the week of March 21. Smith said he doesn’t plan to “drag out” the sentencing process and will likely make a decision the same week as the hearing.
Fucci will be back in court for another status hearing on March 8.
Fucci’s lawyer affirmed Thursday for the judge that she does not anticipate calling any mental health experts. Smith told Fucci he needs to help his lawyer prepare for the hearing and suggested a mental health expert might be beneficial to his case.
This is what he told Fucci directly.
Smith: I want to make sure that you understand that you need to be talking to your attorney about that, do you understand sir?
Fucci: Yes, your Honor.
Smith: One of the things that, as I mentioned is the defendant’s, age, maturity, intellectual capacity, and mental and emotional health at the time of the offense. That may be something you and your attorneys decide, if there are some experts or mental health experts whom you’ve been talking to, who at this time, are not listed on your witness list, do you understand that?
Fucci conferred with his attorney and said he would work with her on his defense.
The state has a psychologist on its witness list for the sentencing hearing.
Bailey’s family attended Thursday’s hearing, as they have all of Fucci’s court appearances.
The prosecution’s list of witnesses for sentencing confirms that Bailey’s loved ones will be called to make victim impact statements.
The list also names six investigators with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and at least two minors whose names appear only as initials on the document.
It’s a similar story on the defense side.
While a motive for killing the 13-year-old cheerleader has never been made clear, friends of Fucci told detectives he owned several knives, and that he’d thought about killing someone.
His girlfriend, whom News4JAX is not naming due to her age, told a detective Fucci had asked her what she would do if he murdered someone.
“I don’t know what my answer really was. but he would say that if he was going to murder someone, it was going to be planned,” she recalled. “He said that he would just walk at night or something and find a random person walking too and just drag them in the woods and stab them.”
Bailey was found stabbed to death on Mother’s Day in 2021 near a wooded area of her neighborhood. She’d been reported missing by her family hours before.
News4JAX was there when a knife later identified as the murder weapon was found by divers in a nearby pond.
Fucci faces a possible life sentence, with a minimum sentence of 40 years.
Once Fucci is sentenced, the law requires that since he was a juvenile when this happened, the court must review his case after 25 years.
Fucci’s mother, Crystal Lane Smith, is charged with tampering with evidence.
According to her arrest warrant, Smith was seen on surveillance video inside her house washing Fucci’s blue jeans, which later tested positive for blood.
The drain in the sink, where Smith was seen washing the jeans, also tested positive for blood, according to the arrest warrant.
Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily: