In announcing that Aiden Fucci would be charged as an adult, R.J. Larizza, state attorney for the 7th Circuit, described a premeditated act during a news conference at the St. Johns County courthouse.
"At least 49 of those stab wounds were to the hands, arms and the head. They were defensive in nature," Larizza said.
He added, "The bottom line is that premeditation could be inferred certainly from just the sheer number of stab wounds that Tristyn Bailey had to suffer. Every time that arm went back, and every time that arm went down, that was premeditation."
Because Fucci has been charged as an adult even though he is a juvenile.
Premeditation was also indicated by statements Fucci reportedly made to witnesses in the weeks leading up to the murder that he "intended to kill someone by taking them in the woods and stabbing them," Larizza said.
Asked if Fucci was suffering from mental health issues or receiving counselling, Larizza said no.
Bailey, a student at Patriot Oaks Academy, was found dead on May 9 in a wooded area near her home in northwest St. Johns County, near Jacksonville.
Clothing with traces of blood was found in Fucci's home. The presumed weapon, a buck knife typically used for hunting, was recovered in a pond near the crime scene.
Since his arrest, Fucci, who has been held at a juvenile detention centre, was in the process of being transferred to an adult facility on Thursday, Larizza said. As a minor, however, he will be separated from the adult population.
In the weeks since Bailey's death, people across St. Johns County and beyond have mourned her death and sought to comfort her family and seek justice.
An avid cheerleader, Bailey was remembered for her bright personality.
People have tied teal ribbons to mailboxes and light posts and organized fundraisers in Bailey's memory. Some also had started a petition to have Fucci charged as an adult.
Thousands gathered to remember Bailey at Celebration Church in Jacksonville on May 18.
The Bailey family released a statement after Thursday's news conference, recognizing the work of the sheriff's office and state attorney's office while thanking people in the community for their support.
"Particularly for those in St. Johns that have helped from the Mother's Day search, the vigils, remembrances and memorials. With the press conference sharing details of this heinous crime, the caring and love shown from the people and businesses to raise the memory of Tristyn and the resolve of our community serve as a beacon of light in the darkness," the family said. "As shared in the Celebration of Life on the battle of the two wolves, it helps us to feed the good wolf. ... We do ask for your continued respect for our privacy as well as of Tristyn's teammates and her school. As we move forward, we will seek to keep Tristyn's memory alive and the spirit of the community."
Asked about a possible motive, Larizza said, "We're still working and investigating this case."
Larizza declined to answer questions at the news conference about any evidence of sexual assault in the case — whether Fucci or Bailey had any kind of romantic relationship; if the victim may have been restrained in any way; or if there was any evidence of Fucci actively attempting to target any other female for assault.
"This simply could have been the case of the wrong place, the wrong time here," Larizza said.
RELATED STORY FROM USATODAY.COM :
Aiden Fucci held without bail in adult jail in Tristyn Bailey murder case
Story by: Colleen Michele Jones / St. Augustine Record
Aiden Fucci, who is facing a first-degree murder charge as an adult in the stabbing death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, will continue to be held without bail, a judge decided at Fucci's first court appearance Friday morning.
Fucci, 14, was originally charged with second-degree murder when arrested by the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office on May 10 in connection with the killing of Bailey, whose body was found May 9 in a wooded area in the Durbin Crossing neighbourhood where both teens lived.
The State Attorney's Office announced Thursday that the charge against Fucci was upgraded to first-degree murder because of evidence that indicated premeditation, including that the victim was stabbed 114 times. State Attorney R.J. Larizza said the severity of the crime also warranted that Fucci is tried as an adult.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office has preliminarily identified the body of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey, who was reported missing Sunday, May 9.
In the hearing held Friday via Zoom, Judge Howard Maltz with the 7th judicial circuit in St. Johns County informed Fucci of his rights. Wearing a black jumpsuit and a mask under his neck, Fucci appeared to show little emotion, responding to the judge's questions with simple "Yes, sir," and "No, sir" responses.
Aiden Fucci, 14, is shown in this jail mugshot released by the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office on May 28, 2021. Fucci is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey.
At a news conference Thursday, the State Attorney's Office said DNA evidence, witness statements and admissions made by Fucci had gone into the grand jury's indictment in the case.
Larizza said that "horrific" could be an understatement when describing the crime.
"At least 49 of those stab wounds were to the hands, arms and the head. They were defensive in nature," he said.
Arrest report details evidence in Fucci case
According to Larizza, due to the sheer force of the stabbing, the tip of the knife blade broke off and was found lodged in the victim's scalp on autopsy. The "Buck" brand hunting knife found in a retention pond close to where Bailey's body was discovered matched one that friends of Fucci's told police he was known to carry.
A full version of the arrest warrant, previously redacted, was released by the SJCSO Thursday.
In it, Fucci, who turns 15 in November, is listed as being 5-foot-11-inches tall and 179 pounds.
According to the report, Fucci was first brought in for questioning around 4:30 p.m. May 9, while Bailey was still considered missing. After being led into an interview room with his parents present, Fucci's mother asked her son why surveillance video showed him returning home not wearing shoes in the early hours of that morning.
Fucci explained that his feet were hurting him.
Among other evidence, DNA evidence found blood DNA matching that of the victim on the sneakers Fucci had been wearing.
Fucci told police at the time that he had been with Bailey at a "mutual friend's house" shortly after 1 a.m. on May 9, acknowledging the two got into an argument and that "he forcefully pushed the victim to the ground, causing her head to strike the ground."
Surveillance video from a community centre in the neighbourhood then showed the victim and suspect together at about 1:15 a.m. Video footage from a homeowner on Saddlestone Drive, close to where Bailey's body was discovered, showed the pair walking together at about 1:45 a.m. and then the suspect by himself at 3:27 a.m., his sneakers in hand.
According to the arrest warrant, witnesses told police that Fucci made previous statements about harming someone within the month, with one quoted as saying: "If he were to kill someone, it was going to be planned; he would find a random person walking at night, drag them into the woods and stab them."
Asked whether Bailey had been specifically targeted, Larizza said: "This could have simply been the case of the wrong person at the wrong time."
State attorney 'disappointed' witnesses stayed quiet
Larizza expressed "disappointment" that witnesses had not come forward earlier to warn authorities about Fucci's threats, but that they did not face any criminal charges.
Larizza said he could not say at this time in the investigation whether Bailey and Fucci had been romantically linked.
"It started out as just a few kids getting together and hanging out," Larizza said, "but it didn't end that way."
He also declined to say whether there was any indication of sexual assault.
Asked whether Fucci has under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time of the crime, Larizza said: "I don't believe so."
Larizza also spoke at Thursday's news conference about how difficult the last few weeks had been on the Bailey family, which includes Tristyn's parents and her four siblings.
The family released a statement through the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, thanking the community — from law enforcement to the State Attorney's Office, neighbours and friends — for their support.
"With the press conference sharing details of this heinous crime, the caring and love shown from the people and businesses to raise up the memory of Tristyn and the resolve of our community serve as a beacon of light in the darkness," the statement read. "As shared in the Celebration of Life [in honour of Tristyn] on the battle of the two wolves, it helps us to feed the good wolf... As we move forward, we will seek to keep Tristyn's memory alive and the spirit of the community. Our thanks, 'The Bailey 7.'"
Minimum sentence 40 to life
At Friday's court appearance, Maltz said it was his determination that Fucci continues to remain in custody without bail until further notice. Fucci had been held at a juvenile detention facility in Volusia County and has since been transferred to an adult facility in St. Johns County. He is being held separately from the rest of the adult population as is required under state law.
Maltz asked Rosemarie Peoples, representing Fucci from the public defender's office if she or her client had anything to say at this point. Peoples said they did not.
The next step in the legal process will be an arraignment, at which time Fucci could decide to enter a plea.
Larizza said that if not tried as an adult, Fucci likely may have only been held as a juvenile until he was 21.
"That is not adequate or appropriate for what happened here," Larizza said, adding, 'The adult system is where this case belongs."
Even though charged with a capital felony, as a minor Fucci is not eligible for the death penalty. The minimum sentence he could receive would be 40 years to life with the possibility for a review after 25 years, according to Bryan Shorstein, a spokesman with the State Attorney's Office.
Because Fucci has been charged as an adult, The St. Augustine Record is naming him even though he is a juvenile.
FOLLOW UP STORY FROM USA TODAY :
Family of Tristyn Bailey releases statement after suspect charged with first-degree murder
Story by: StaffThe Florida Times-Union
Following Thursday's announcement that the suspect in the brutal stabbing death of their daughter had been indicted on a first-degree, premeditated murder charge, the family of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey released the following statement through the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
"We appreciate that today's outcome is directly the result of the thorough and comprehensive work from the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office along with the 7th District State Attorney's office as part of the initial steps to bring justice for Tristyn's murder. We would specifically like to recognize the Criminal Investigations Unit of the SJSO. We greatly appreciate the tremendous community outpouring from all parts of the world. Particularly for those in St. Johns that have helped from the Mother's Day search, the vigils, remembrances and memorials. With the press conference sharing details of this heinous crime, the caring and love shown from the people and businesses to raise up the memory of Tristyn and the resolve of our community serve as a beacon of light in the darkness. As shared in the Celebration of Life on the battle of the two wolves, it helps us to feed the good wolf. We also would like to thank the Jacksonville media for respecting our privacy while we mourn the loss of Tristyn. A special thanks to News4Jax for live streaming the Celebration of Life to enable people globally to observe the service. We do ask for your continued respect for our privacy as well as of Tristyn's teammates and her school. As we move forward, we will seek to keep Tristyn's memory alive and the spirit of the community. Our thanks, The Bailey 7"
Tristyn Bailey's body was discovered near a retention pond in her neighbourhood hours after she was reported missing on Sunday, May 9.
That same day, 14-year-old Aiden Fucci — who attended the same school and lived in the same northwest St. Johns County neighbourhood as Tristyn — was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder.
The charge was upgraded to first-degree murder on Thursday, State Attorney for the 7th District R.J. Larizza said. Fucci will be charged and tried as an adult, he said during an afternoon news conference in which he released new details of the crime, including that the medical examiner had found 144 stabbing wounds to Tristyn's body during an autopsy earlier this month.
The Bailey Family statement came nine days after a public memorial service drew thousands of friends, neighbours, classmates and community members to Celebration Church in south Jacksonville to remember the 13-year-old cheerleader and student at Patriot Oaks Academy.