ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — For St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick, May 9 will be forever etched in his mind.
"It is one of those cases that will never go away," Hardwick said.
Monday marks one year since 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey was murdered in her Durbin Creek Neighborhood.
The suspect currently being held for her murder is her Patriot Oaks Academy classmate, Aiden Fucci. He was 14 years old at the time of the murder.
It was a case that gripped the St. Johns County community and put it in not just a national, but international, spotlight.
It's the kind of case Hardwick said law enforcement prays they never have to see.
But Hardwick says the grief investigators and the community feels pales in comparison to the pain felt in the Bailey family, with whom he has grown close to in the last year. He often speaks with Tristyn’s father, Forrest Bailey.
"For whatever reason, we have been put in this position together. We are forever bonded with each other for probably the rest of our lives," Sheriff Hardwick said.
Fucci hasn't been convicted yet, but Hardwick said Fucci's use of social media has left clues.
The case took an especially strange turn when Aiden Fucci posted an ominous selfie on Snapchat from the back of a deputy’s car referencing Tristyn's disappearance.
"It is disturbing to me, but it is also helpful to the case as well," tells Sheriff Hardwick. "This is one of those cases where you have to use every piece of the puzzle to solve the crime and we are using social media as a part of that."
Based on evidence, the killer acted alone.
"I believe now based on the evidence they have there is nobody else responsible for the actual murder of Tristyn, but that being said, as we go down this road of prepping for prosecution and talking to witnesses things are said sometimes that weren’t said the first time," Sheriff Hardwick said. "But as of right now nothing has come out of the ordinary, nobody else has been charged unless the State Attorney’s Office has something going on."
As the community reflects on this case one year later, Hardwick hopes people will focus on the good life Tristyn lived and the person she was -- not just how she died.
"When you go to [Tristyn's] house you can feel the love in there, you can feel her in that house. The way she has been memorialized with family photos, and you can feel the love amongst the siblings and family in that house," he said.
As the case moves toward a trial, he hopes the investigative work the sheriff's office has done can give the Bailey family some piece of justice, but he knows justice is different than closure.
"What is the definition of closure? I don’t know. Is it prison? I don’t know. I know for us it is that we dot our I’s and cross our T’s and we pay a lot of attention to the family of the victim and we present the best case so this defendant can be prosecuted," tells Sheriff Hardwick.
Tristyn's family provided the following statement to media outlets on the one-year anniversary of her death.
As a family, we continue to be devastated and overcome with grief at the loss of Tristyn. With time we are learning to deal with carrying this loss forward. We draw our greatest strength from our love of Tristyn and seek to honor her memory in line with her spirit. Our St. Johns and Jacksonville community, her teammates and classmates are simply incredible in the acts of kindness and encouragement for one another. It is in the day-to-day memories and expressions of love that we best carry Tristyn forward.
We are also working on many lasting ways in which Tristyn’s legacy will support the good. In the next year, we look forward to formally announcing many of these efforts. Presently we are working to align with a youth mental health program, a community focused gym that will also support defense classes and a scholarship program. Tristyn’s dedication as a teammate continues to be honored. Saint Johns Middle School Cheer Association, Infinity Allstars Cheerleading, Zone Cheer All-Stars and the Episcopal Eagles Women’s Lacrosse are each recognizing someone within their respective program with a Tristyn Bailey award.
We are deeply appreciative of the many organizations and businesses that have had events to remember Tristyn. From the Aberdeen 5K, Kendra Scott event, POA homecoming game, Outlaws play-off game, Creekside/Episcopal Womens Lacrosse game, POA Spring concert, to the businesses and individuals that show their teal and aqua in support and spread kindess each day, we’re immensely thankful. Going beyond our local community, we have seen how Tristyn’s spirit, memory, and kindness has grown around the world, from countless aqua bows tied up in her memory to painted rocks carried and hidden around the world to share her legacy.
As we take today to reflect upon Tristyn’s memory and the light her passing has inspired, we encourage everyone to find a moment each day to feed the good wolf. Through acts of kindness and love as a community we can drive out evil together.
With Love Always,
The Bailey 7