On May 9, 2021, the body of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey was discovered near a Retention basin in a wooded area of St. John's, Jacksonville, Florida. She had been stabbed a staggering 114 times in the head, hands and arms. Over 40 of the wounds were defensive. Bailey was a student and cheerleader from the nearby Patriot Oaks Academy on Longleaf Pine Parkway.
She had been reported missing from the 700 block of North Durbin Parkway earlier that day at 10am and had been unaccounted for since 1am that morning. Volunteers from the local area and community began searching for the teenager as soon as the news broke.
Officers collected surveillance tapes from the local area and discovered whom they believed to be Bailey, along with a teenage male suspect, walking together during the early hours of May 9. Cameras captured the pair walking past the Durbin North Amenity Center in North Durbin Parkway, St. John's. Bailey was dressed in black.
The two were seen again at approximately 01:45am on security footage from a home on Saddlestone Drive, around 1 mile from the Amenity Center. They were seen again walking the opposite way on Saddlestone Drive at 03:30am.
Police searched the surrounding area and uncovered a knife with a damaged blade that had been tossed into a nearby pond. It is believed this was an attempt to dispose of the murder weapon and do away with the perpetrator’s fingerprints as well as the victim’s blood.
The missing shard of the blade was found stuck in the victim’s scalp.
Chief medical examiner Dr. Predrag Bulic performed the autopsy and ruled the cause of death to be homicide from sharp force trauma by stabbing.
The suspect, a 14-year-old boy who also attended Patriot Oaks Academy, was arrested the following day on May 10, 2021, on charges of second-degree murder for his involvement in the brutal slaying. He uploaded a picture of himself to snapchat, holding up two fingers in the back of a police cruiser with the caption: Hey guys has anyone seen Tristyn lately?
Although initially the suspect was not named in the media due to his status as a minor, he was later identified as Aiden Fucci and his mugshot was published on various media outlets.
Fucci had told friends that he wanted to take someone to the woods and stab them to death. Police retrieved items of clothing from his room matching the clothing worn by the male suspect on the surveillance footage. Bailey was also found dressed in the same clothing as the female on the videos. Investigators also took and tested various other items from the suspects bedroom and discovered the presence of blood. Aiden Fucci’s home was just three miles from the scene of the crime.
Crystal Smith visited Aiden while he was being held for questioning and was heard asking "Are you sure there was nothing on your jeans?" to which Aiden Fucci answered: "I think so, why?" to which Smith responded: "Blood." They were likely unaware their conversation was being recorded.
Investigators obtained the surveillance videos from the suspect’s home and saw Crystal Smith and Aiden Fucci in conversation with the police on the day that he was taken in for questioning. After Aiden Fucci left with officers, Crystal Smith retrieved an item of clothing, a pair of blue jeans, from the teenager’s room and began scrubbing them in the sink. After cleaning the garment, she showed them to a third party to inspect them before returning the jeans to the suspect’s bedroom. After the discovery of the home surveillance footage the jeans were taken from the home and tested, along with the sink and drain. The presence of blood was discovered.
While being questioned Aiden Fucci reportedly changed his story several times and made several admissions of guilt.
Reports state that both the victim and suspect grew up in the same neighborhood and attended the same school, although it is unclear if they were classmates. Fucci was cooperative when the case was classed as a missing persons case, however, when murder came into the equation, he became less cooperative.
On June 5, 2021 Crystal Smith, turned herself over to police for her role in covering up her son's crime. She was arrested for tampering with evidence and is currently being held on a $25,000 bond.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Justin D'Arienzo later said of Crystal Smith's actions: “Typically, the default mode for parents is reflexive and it is typical to protect their children, but after more thought, often it’s really a question of family loyalty versus tough love.”
It was announced May 28, 2021, that Aiden Fucci would be tried as an adult and face charges of first-degree premeditated murder.
The 14-year-old suspect appeared at his preliminary detention hearing via video link from a juvenile detention center in Volusia County. He appeared stressed and on the verge of tears as the judge explained that he was being charged with second-degree murder- murder committed with a depraved mind but without premeditation. As Fucci’s attorney, Andy Snoober, struggled with connection issues, the judge explained that the suspect had the right to remain silent and the right to counsel through every stage of the hearing.
When asked for her professional opinion on the case, board-certified juvenile law expert, Shannon Schott, said: "Kids don’t kill other kids but for trauma. When the child commits a crime, the village has failed. I do have questions about what neighbors observed, what his parents observed and what the school observed."
On June 3, 2021, Fucci pleaded not guilty to first degree murder. Despite being a minor, he is currently being held at an adult prison, where he is being segregated from the other prisoners.