Aiden Fucci guilty plea: Tristyn Bailey family, others respond to surprise change of plea

Tristyn Bailey fought for her life, and for nearly two years, law enforcement and her family fought for justice. Monday provided some solace as 16-year-old Aiden Fucci opted to plead guilty in his classmate's May 9, 2021, stabbing death in St. Johns County.

With a very brief offering of sorrow to both Bailey's family and his own, he spared them the agony of a trial. It still doesn't provide any clarity as to how Fucci, then 14, could inflict 114 stab wounds, 49 deemed defensive by the medical examiner, on the 13-year-old girl.

He had previously talked about killing someone to his girlfriend and Patriot Oaks Academy friends, according to court records, but somehow the anger issues and warning signs weren't taken serious enough.

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Most agree the plea was unexpected as a change of venue and postponements were denied and a jury was set to be impaneled, but the stacks of evidence against Fucci also could not be denied. Here's what the family and others had to say afterward.

Tristyn Bailey's family statement on Aiden Fucci's guilty plea

Stacy Bailey, the mother of Tristyn Bailey, hugs Assistant State Attorney Mark Johnson as Tristyn's father, Forrest Bailey, talks with Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton at the conclusion of Monday's surprise plea in the murder of the 13-year-old.
Stacy Bailey, the mother of Tristyn Bailey, hugs Assistant State Attorney Mark Johnson as Tristyn's father, Forrest Bailey, talks with Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton at the conclusion of Monday's surprise plea in the murder of the 13-year-old.

"Foremost, we would like to give thanks to God. Since this nightmare began, we have had the love and support of so many. We know so many have lifted Tristyn, our family, and her friends up in prayer. The members of our community have been simply exceptional in the support they have given us.

This morning’s surprise change of plea brings our family significant relief. With the detailed and exemplary investigative work of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, along with the trial preparation by the 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, we are confident that the jury would have returned a guilty verdict. Just asTristyn fought for her life, we equally fought for her and would not agree to any plea deal. We were fully aligned with the prosecutor in rejecting the proposed plea deals mentioned by the public defender during the plea hearing.

Today is an important milestone in the journey of Justice for Tristyn. As mentioned, we would not be at this point without the dedicated efforts of so many. We know that it has been a team effort to which so many have contributed. On behalf of Tristyn and our family, thank you. We cannot say enough about R.J. Larizza’s team at the State Attorney’s Office. Your tireless efforts, professionalism, and support demonstrate your commitment to justice for our community.

We wish we could thank everyone by name, and there will be a time for that, but there are a few people we want to thank individually. To begin, we are blessed to have Jennifer Dunton as our lead prosecutor. Throughout the process, she has been extremely respectful of our family whilst being keenly focused on delivering Justice. Mrs. Dunton — thank you for all your efforts to this point. We never questioned what the outcome would be with her thorough preparation. Along with fellow prosecutor Mark Johnson, we have no doubt that Mrs. Dunton and Mr. Johnson would have been successful in getting a guilty verdict in any Florida courtroom. We have faith in their abilities in the upcoming sentencing phase.

Aiden Fucci is directed to his seat by his attorneys in the St. Johns County Courthouse where he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with a minimum of 40 years in prison Monday. Fucci, now 16, was charged as an adult for the stabbing death of 13-year-old classmate Tristyn Bailey on May 9, 2021.
Aiden Fucci is directed to his seat by his attorneys in the St. Johns County Courthouse where he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with a minimum of 40 years in prison Monday. Fucci, now 16, was charged as an adult for the stabbing death of 13-year-old classmate Tristyn Bailey on May 9, 2021.

This case was built off the exceptional work of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office led by Sheriff Rob Hardwick. We were immediately given confidence in the case being built by Sergeant Kurt Hannon who was the lead during the criminal investigation. We know his updates were representative of the entire SJSO: Our sincere thanks to them all. In addition to Sergeant Hannon, we cannot express enough thanks to our victim’s advocate, Ashley Mitchell. We don’t know how we would navigate this without you.

The partnership between the SJSO and 7th Circuit SAO, along with the collaborative efforts of the FDLE and Duval Corrections office, have reflected amazing cooperation between government agencies. Again, we are thankful for everyone that has contributed in the journey of getting Justice for Tristyn. Of special note, weextend our thanks to the families of these agencies as we know they have made many sacrifices as well.

For the incredible community support we have received, we remain committed to reflecting on the kind and good deeds in honor of Tristyn’s spirit. With the backing of our community, neighborhood, counselors, friends, and family, we have been able to endure the nearly two years since Tristyn was taken from us while managing toshare her cheer: “We got this!”

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This is obviously not over yet. There is still a sentencing phase that our family must endure. Make no mistake, the most important things to our family at this time are justice and Tristyn’s legacy. As the judicial process continues, we will have more to say publicly. However, we must respect the judicial process so we ask that the media and the community continue to respect that process and our family’s privacy. On this note, we would like to express our thanks and gratitude to attorney Matthew H. Hinson who has stepped in to serve as our representative for all media contacts and inquiries. Thank you all, again.

St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick's statement on Aiden Fucci's guilty plea

St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick, right, announces the  May 10, 2021, arrest of 14-year-old Aiden Fucci in the death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey.
St. Johns County Sheriff Robert Hardwick, right, announces the May 10, 2021, arrest of 14-year-old Aiden Fucci in the death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey.

"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. This was an all-out 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. The 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 strengthand grace throughout this case has been incredible. This agency will forever be connected to the Bailey familyand this community will forever be #BaileyStrong.”

R.J. Larizza, state attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit, addresses the media on May 27, 2021, to announce that Aiden Fucci, 14, will be charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Tristyn Bailey, 13.
R.J. Larizza, state attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit, addresses the media on May 27, 2021, to announce that Aiden Fucci, 14, will be charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Tristyn Bailey, 13.

7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza's statement on Aiden Fucci's guilty plea

"Today was a major event in this case. We still have work to do and we will be diligently preparing for the sentencing hearing to hold the defendant accountable for his actions. We will be seeking the maximum sentence available under law — a life sentence.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Tristyn Bailey family, St. Johns officials react to Aiden Fucci plea