A Florida teenager has pleaded guilty to the brutal stabbing murder of 13-year-old cheerleader Tristyn Bailey, according to reports.
Aiden Fucci, 16, entered the plea ahead of jury selection for his first-degree murder trial in St. Johns County on Monday, CBS 47 reports.
Fucci, who was 14 at the time of the alleged killing, stabbed Bailey 114 times before dumping her body in a wooded area near her home in St. Johns on Mother’s Day in 2021.
“I just want to apologize to the Bailey family,” Fucci said when asked if he would like to make a statement to the court, according to News 4 Jax. Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith then asked Fucci if he needed more to think about his decision but Fucci declined the offer.
Despite his age, Fucci has been prosecuted as an adult on a first-degree murder charge. He was arrested on May 10, 2021, the day after Bailey’s mutilated body was found next to a retention pond close to her home.
Bailey’s murder shocked the quiet St. Johns community where she and Fucci attended Patriot Oaks Academy together. The county’s State Attorney R.J. Larizza previously told reporters that Bailey had died “fighting for her life” and prosecutors alleged that Fucci had told others on the night of Bailey’s death that he “intended to kill someone by taking them in the woods and stabbing them.”
Larizza added that Bailey had around 49 defensive stab wounds on her hands, arms, and face. A knife found in a pond was identified by witnesses as having belonged to Fucci, with the blade’s missing tip later discovered in Bailey’s skull. Blood on the knife matched Bailey’s, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Predrag Bulic said.
While the desperate search for Bailey was underway, Fucci was brought in for questioning. Around the same time, he uploaded a post of himself sitting in a patrol car. “Hey guys has anybody seen Tristyn lately?” he captioned the post.
According to an arrest report, police found blood on clothing in Fucci’s bedroom and his story changed several times during questioning. His mother, Crystal Lane Smith, was also arrested and charged with evidence tampering after being accused of trying to wash blood off her son’s jeans.
Fucci’s guilty plea “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,” Sheriff Rob Hardwick said in a statement on Monday. “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.”
Hardwick added that the “strength and grace” of the Bailey family had been “incredible” throughout the case.
Judge Smith set another hearing for Feb. 23 to go over issues ahead of sentencing.
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