ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Aiden Fucci's sentencing will be streamed gavel-to-gavel on FirstCoastNews.com, the First Coast News app and on our YouTube page.
To read more about who Tristyn Bailey was, click here.
A full transcript of Stacy Bailey's testimony can be found at the bottom of this story. You can watch it here.
One by one, friends and family members of a murdered 13-year-old took the stand in a St. Johns County courtroom Wednesday to offer victim impact statements in the sentencing of her killer.
Their grief was laid bare, as Tristyn Bailey’s siblings, parents and friends urged Circuit Judge Lee Smith to sentence now 16-year-old Aiden Fucci to life in prison. As each took the stand, they placed a heart shaped stone in a glass on the witness stand, each symbolizing something lost because of Tristyn’s murder.
They spoke of PTSD, crippling anxiety, trauma migraines. They told the judge the fallout of the savage crime has included failing relationships, physical deterioration, in one case, even dependency to “numb” the pain.
“You can only imagine how the pain he put her through stays with us," Tristyn’s father Forrest Bailey told the judge.
At one point, he addressed Fucci directly and referenced his brief, lackluster apology when he pleaded guilty last month.
“I want to be clear in saying that your insincere apology is not accepted,” Forrest Bailey told Fucci. “In no part did I sense any glimmer of true remorse felt in your apology. Without question I know that statement was for some self-serving purpose that you have."
“I loathe your very existence," he continued, "and know that there is nothing within you that reflects the smallest amount of goodness or human decency.”
Tristyn's older sister Alexis Bailey was the first to take the stand, saying only "114" -- before placing 114 aqua-colored stones in the class one-by-one.
It took around 3 minutes.
She then added her own stone -- a white heart -- as did each of her family members.
“She was ripped from us with utter malice and evil in the most hideous way possible," Tristyn’s maternal grandmother Jane Sheffield told the judge.
Addressing Fucci, she said, "The anxiety of imagining the fear she must have felt with each stab of your knife is too much to bear.”
“How dare you?” she continued. “You did it deliberately and with unspeakable malice. You planned this … No, I do not forgive you and I don’t accept any pathetic apology you might offer.”
In a day of anguished testimony, perhaps the most poignant came from her mother, Stacy Bailey. She told the judge how in a community of teenagers traumatized by Tristyn’s death, several tried to take their own lives. She spoke of her difficult pregnancy with Tristyn and their travels together for her cheerleading team. And she recounted the horror they all experienced on Mother’s Day 2021, when she was murdered.
She also read the judge a single entry from her journal, documenting a night spent careening between fear and anxiety, sleep elusive, steeped in dread. Her thoughts included the suffering her daughter endured as she was stabbed to death.
“How terrified she must have been," she read. "What went wrong in that moment of betrayal from someone she thought was her friend? Did she know it was coming? Did you [Fucci] wait for her back to be turned? The first strike of the knife. The fearful shock she must have had. The second strike: ‘What is happening?’ I can only imagine she tries desperately to fight him off. ‘Why is this happening?’ He continues to strike, over and over and over, as she continues to fight. …Was she's screaming for help? Did she try to reach for her phone to call for help? Tristyn’s desperation to live and get away from him continues until he overpowers my child. … I cannot get it out of my head about the pain Tristyn felt.”
A transcript of her full victim impact statement is below:
Your Honor, I'm Stacey Bailey. I am Tristyn Bailey's mother, or as her friends called her Tee.
Not many know what Forrest and I faced during our pregnancy with Tristyn. We were moving to another country, Singapore, when I found out it was expecting another child. To say the least, it was a surprise as we thought we were done after having four children. I was terrified to be pregnant in a foreign country, but soon found myself with amazing medical care. I was put into a high-risk category and I had a high-risk doctor, because we were told that Tristyn potentially had Down syndrome. And then it got worse from there as they found a spot or potentially a hole in her heart.
We faced every day wondering if she would be OK. The fear was constant, which was incredibly difficult on my family. We prayed every day that she would be OK. But never once did we ever question she was wanted and loved no matter what.
Our prayers were answered when she came into this world with no signs of a spot on her heart and she did not have Down syndrome. In time, we learned that Tristyn’s heart was stronger than most, and it would be a gift that she would share with the world. We soon learned that she was a child that needed to be front and center from day one. Tristyn … was incredibly loud from the get go. She never really cried. It was more like a scream, ear piercing at times.
Growing up in Singapore, for the first four years of her life was amazing. Her siblings and her had an incredibly close bond. But she had a bond with me that was unbreakable. Forrest used to say ‘Nobody else seems to matter except for you, Stacey.’
She was always a very social child, always striving to do the best in every aspect of her life. She joined the cheer world at a very young age and pushed herself to be the best that she could be well, always encouraging others. At school, she had excellent grades and had many friends. One of the things that stood out to me the most was how she fiercely protected others from being bullied. Tristyn truly had a heart of gold.
For me, I have always loved being a mother and vowed endlessly to love, teach and protect my children. I spent so many weeks traveling with Tristyn for cheer. Over the years, I was lucky enough to have a lot of one-on-one time with her. During these times, we would have conversations about friends, school, the good the bad.
I will never forget a conversation about one boy in particular who was always getting in trouble in her class for years. I always ended the conversation with, ‘Just be kind to him. He probably needs friends. He probably doesn't have many.’
Little did I know that that she did that over the years. A Tristyn’s celebration of life, a boy waited in a long line of people to speak with me. To be honest with you, he's the only thing I really remember from that day. Everything else are just brief flashes of memories.
He waited for so long to speak with me and tears poured out of his face. His words still resonate with me today. He's said ‘She was my best friend. She was my only friend.’ I spent more than a month trying to figure out who this boy was. It turned out to be the same boy that we had talked about so often. At that moment, I knew just how extra special my daughter was, and how she truly learned a valuable lesson of just be kind.
I will treasure these moments and lessons taught for the rest of my life. I however failed in one lesson. I did not know that I needed to teach Tristyn to be afraid of the evil in her own school. To be cautious and fearful of the people you think are your friends. Aiden Fucci, you betrayed us all.
I have seen the traumatic impact of Aiden's horrific actions and how they have affected all that knew and love Tristyn. I have watched her friends become afraid to go to school and fearful of who they could and could not trust. I have watched the depression, the PTSD, the anxiety take over so many. Worse than anything, some of these feelings go so deep that several kids have tried to take their own lives from this incident.
I carry the weight of this on my shoulders every single day. The guilt eats away at me. While I know it is not my weight to bear, it doesn't change the fact that I feel this. I feel that I have to protect and be there for each of her friends to let them know how much they mean to me. Aiden Fucci has destroyed so many lives by his vicious choice to take my child's life.
I want to bring you to the weekend of Mother's Day, May 9, 2021. It was Friday night, and we were preparing for an event at our business. Tristyn came to me asking me if she could go to Food Truck Friday because all of her friends were weren't going from school. I immediately said no, because of our work event and I could not go with her. You see, she had only gotten one other time and I was not willing to let her go without supervision. She begged to go with one of her friends that I had not met, but said that I can meet her parents as they would be watching over her. I agreed that if I met the parents and felt comfortable, I would consider letting her go.
I drove to her friend's house, I met the mom and we agreed that the girls could go as the dad would be taking them and bringing Tristyn home too. It was reassuring to meet another family who had the same parenting style as us.
This night is where the weekend starts to crumble, in hindsight. You see, your honor, many kids that night planned to sneak out, not thinking anything could go wrong. They just thought they were going to be having fun and hanging out together.
[Friday] night arrives. It was just a normal day around our house. I can remember Sophia and Tristyn planning what they were going to be making me for a surprise breakfast that next day, Mother's Day. They asked me to stay in my room until it was ready. Later that day, we went to dinner, and then we went to see our daughter, Alexis, and her new litter of Sphynx kittens. We didn't stay long because we were all tired. How I wish I had never gone to bed and stayed up longer.
The next morning Sophia prepared breakfast by herself as Tristyn never came down to help. Needless to say, my Mother's Day morning was soon filled with panic as my son informed us that Tristyn was not in her room as he went to tell her it was time for breakfast. I thought to myself, ‘This can't be. She must be in the bathroom or her sister's room.’ I immediately ran up upstairs to indeed find she was gone.
We all frantically were yelling for her and running through the house with no reply from our precious daughter. Forrest yelled for me to call the police. And this is where our nightmare went into full force. My heart was pounding with every second that passed, pleading with the police to help me.
We soon found ourselves calling our friends on the phone, using social media and yelling in the streets for anyone to help us. How could this be? This crazy thing of social media is there's always a trail, and we knew within an hour who Tristyn was last with. I think God for that trail even though I find some of social media to be the bane of my existence.
The minutes turned into hours of not knowing where our daughter was. I called her phone as so many did for it just to go to voicemail. Everything that happened that day is a blur. I do know that there were so many people trying to help find our daughter. Our community was there for us and completely put their Mother's Day plans aside.
At some point around two o'clock in the afternoon is when my mother saw a dragonfly. She said to me, ‘Stacy, look, it's good luck, they’re gonna find her.’ Unfortunately, I shoved my mother as hard as I could, and started yelling at her. Because in that moment, I knew my child was not coming home. I tried desperately to apologize for pushing her. But it was such an uncontrollable moment. You see, when my father passed away, I was surrounded by dragonflies, and it is soon become a symbol of my guardian angel.
Four more agonizing hours passed before I found myself sitting in our home with family and several detectives, we waited for the news that we could have never been prepared for, pleading to God to not let this happen to my family, and to not take our baby girl away from us.
I cannot tell you all the details of what happened when we went inside as my brain has hidden them in my memory somewhere deep inside. I have very few memories of that day, your Honor.
What I'd like to do is share one night from a recent journal of mine this past month.
It's one I've 1:05 am. My eyes pop open in fear. And I try to orient myself as to where I am or if I am safe. I walk myself from the couch to my bedroom and try to get some more sleep.
It's 2:05 am. Again, startled awake. It's 3 am. I'm startled awake again, as I am every night, multiple times a night. My head is pounding and pain. My thoughts are racing. My anxiety is high. My chest is tight. The thoughts immediately start. The time tells me that it's over: Tristyn lost her life by now.
Visions flood my head. How terrified she must have been. What went wrong in that moment of betrayal from someone she thought was her friend? Did she know it was coming? Did you wait for her back to be turned? The first strike of the knife. The fearful shock she must have had. The second strike. ‘What is happening?’ I can only imagine she tries desperately to fight him off. ‘Why is this happening?’ He continues to over and over and over as she continues to fight. My chest pain grows tighter and the tears are now flowing. Was she's screaming for help? Did she try to reach for her phone to call for help? Tristyn’s desperation to live and get away from him continues until he overpowers my child. He continues stabbing her even when there is no fight left. These visions are embedded in my mind. Her beautiful blonde hair, her smile, her is irresistible laughter have all been snuffed out. The guilt I have that I was not there to protect Tristyn plagues me. My thoughts continue and I cannot get it out of my head about the pain Tristyn felt.
I think about how once small slip of a knife I cut my finger while cutting fruit and it hurts so much that I almost fainted. I pray she passed out. But honestly, with the amount of defense wounds, I know she did not.
She fought and our beautiful daughter suffered for so long as he took no mercy in the 114 times you stabbed her My heart is pounding so hard now. I think it come out of my chest. ‘Oh my God, please tell me this is a bad dream told me that I will wake up from this horrific nightmare.’ The pins and needles have started in my head. The trauma migraine is here. They always come.
I beg and plead with myself to just stop thinking for five minutes so that the pain goes away. It only increases, until sharp stabbing pains take over my head which can bring me to my knees and screaming in pain. This is my new normal, every day all day. My new life sentence to the torture of my child being murdered.
‘Please, stop thinking. Just go to bed, just for a few moments to relieve the pain.’ It's now 3:46. I try to close my eyes. But it only lasts for a brief moment as the fear is overwhelming. The darkness scares me. What is waiting to harm me out there? Will I ever have peace? No. How can I without Tristyn?
It's 4:15 am. Sirens are going off that send me running to the living room only to find out it was on the TV. The panic is now starting to elevate to the point I can't control my anxiety. Images raced through my mind of the helicopters, the police sirens, the bloodhounds. And worst of all, the police asking me to come in my house. I remember falling to my knees, begging them not to make me go inside. I knew that that meant she was never coming home at that horrific moment.
The darkness of the night surrounds me and I live in constant fear of what might harm the rest of my family. A memory flashes and enters my mind as Detective Hannon knocked on my door at 3:40 in the morning that night to let us know that an arrest had been made. ‘God please make this stop. Wake me up from this nightmare.’ I want to run and find Tristyn but I am met with the reality she is gone. Am I losing my mind? This cannot be real. I questioned God: ‘Why oh why did you not protect her? How could you let evil touch her? Why God, why?’
This is my sleep pattern every single night, for 97 weeks. Sleep deprivation at its finest. The sleep deprivation is taking a toll on me mentally and physically. I do not recognize the person looking at me in the mirror. How I wish it was someone else. The sleepless nights bring black circles under my eyes and the swelling from the constant tears and the stress have aged me beyond my years. I have memory loss and I live in constant brain fog. Trying to put complete thoughts together can be very challenging. I now suffer from pins and needles in my head many times a day along with chronic migraines. My hair is breaking and falling out due to all of this stress and anxiety.
The PTSD for Mother's Day has had many impacts. I run into my house at the first sign of a helicopter sirens and I now have a genuine fear of being outside in the dark. I check my children's location multiple times a day just to know that they're where they are in case something happens to them. Seeing police cars can send me into a panic thinking that something is terribly wrong. The depression can be debilitating at times and I feel like my life has spun out of control.
My home, which was once where we all gathered in comfort, is now a place of hurt that Tristyn is no longer there. The door to her room remains closed. It is exactly as she left it. Her bed is unmade. Her bath towel she used on May 8 is at the foot of her bed. The suitcase is still packed from the weekend before when we attended Summit with Infinity All Star Cheer. I can't bear to change one thing, not even washing her clothes in the hamper, as it would wash away the scent of her.
Many times I find our cat, who knows how to open Tristyn’s door, in her room as if she's just waiting for her to return.
I do not know if we will ever have comfort in our home again. My children were once full of life and laughter and now they are full of despair, anger, depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Bailey Family Fun Day was every Sunday in our home, a day where we would all come together and have a meal and spend time together. Sunday will never be the same for us, as we have a missing link in our family. The Sunday of May 9, 2021 has made us dread every Sunday. How will we ever be whole again?
Aiden Fucci, you have destroyed me. You have destroyed my family. You have destroyed Tristyn’s friends. You have destroyed the community that we live in. You have caused a divide amongst friends and neighbors that should have never been. You have taken away my baby girl. My past, my present, my future by your calculated, vile actions.
I will never be able to watch her perform on stage with her cheer team. I will never see her win Summit or World. I will never have our special weekends away just the two of us. She will not be able to graduate high school or college, and her father will never be able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. You have taken this all away from us.
I will never understand the heinous choice you made that day or why my kind daughter was the one that you chose. I will spend the rest of my life grieving our beautiful daughter, longing to hear her voice and hold her in my arms. Aiden Fucci, your deplorable actions are unforgivable. And I will pray every day that you stay in prison for the rest of your life and never be able to harm anyone else in this world again.
Your Honor, I plead with you please consider everything that he's done to our daughter and to our family.
Aiden Fucci made a heinous decision on May 9, 2021, and took the very life that I brought into this world. Please do not for one second think that he could be rehabilitated at any point. He is beyond saving.
He should have to pay for his crime against my daughter. Justice is an empty word for our family as it can never bring Tristyn back. But justice is for society, and he should have life without for without parole. Thank you [judge] for everything that you've done in this case, and I know that you have really hard choices in front of you.
I'm gonna be placing two rocks into to this. This this white stone is for her sister Sophia who will never have the opportunity to be a big sister again, and you stole that from her
The last one is for me. That represents everything that you have stolen for me. My words, my joy, my hope, my future and my beautiful daughter.