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Dozens of letters convey anguish, enduring grief over murder of St. Johns County 13-year-old

The brutal slaying of Tristyn Bailey forever changed those who knew her, and many who didn't.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The video attached to this story is from a related report.

“My heart is broken. My heart is torn.” "A loss that we will never be able to fully comprehend or overcome."

"She never had the chance to get (her) braces off."

These messages are among dozens of victim impact statements mailed to the St. Johns County judge deciding the fate of a teen killer. The outpouring of love and grief over the death of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey is contained in hundreds of pages released in the case Monday, and comes just one day before the sentencing hearing of Aiden Fucci begins.

Fucci pleaded guilty to the fatal stabbing of his former middle school classmate on Mother’s Day 2021. His sentencing hearing is expected to last much of the week, and Circuit Judge Lee Smith hopes to pronounce sentence Friday. But before doing so, he will consider victim impact statements from people been impacted by the murder of Tristyn Bailey. 

The letters – some handwritten, others typed – are from neighbors, classmates, friends and family members. But there are many from complete strangers who said they were stricken by the brutal slaying. Some are from people who lived down the street from the Bailey family, others from people across the country and even across the Atlantic. One person wrote a statement from Chile.

Most ask the judge to sentence Fucci the maximum punishment – life in prison. But the letters also convey the anguish people experienced over the crime and its lasting impact on them. One woman, a resident of the U.K. and a friend of the Bailey family, said she’d always thought about moving her family to the U.S., “however knowing of such a brutal crime, I have to reconsider whether a move would be the right thing as I fear for the safety of my children.”

One person who doesn’t know the Baileys wrote, “My heart aches for her family because there’s nothing I can do to fix their pain or bring her back. When I think about this vibrant young lady, all I can do is cry.”

Several wrote about how the crime shattered their sense of security and robbed their school-aged children of their innocence. A letter written on behalf of the “friends of Tristyn Bailey” wondered, “How do you comfort them when their grief is overwhelming, when their fragile hearts are broken, when their trust is shattered? How do you ever explain how something so atrocious could happen to someone they love so dearly?”

'Took away our sense of security'

Others talked about how the crime fundamentally changed the way they live their lives.

Many mothers wrote letters, telling similar stories of waking up in the middle of the night, afraid for the safety of their daughters. Several described newly-developed habits, like texting their daughters constantly to make sure they were safe. A grandmother described nightmares that her grandchildren will be abducted.

One man says his family began martial arts training after the murder. Another said she slept with a knife under her pillow. One woman said she even bought GPS tracking devices for each of her children that show if they are involved in a “tussle.”

“We insist they wear them every time they are out of the house,” she wrote.

“The crime committed by Aiden Fucci took away our sense of security," wrote one man. "It closed the door on freedoms given to children to learn and make mistakes then learn from those mistakes. Neighbors have been divided, smiles and waves went away. Some things will come back, these psychological and developmental scars will never go away.”

Others lamented the harsh realities their children were exposed to. 

“I cried for Stacy, and for Forest and for Brittney and for all the Bailey family and their close community of friends,” wrote one family friend. “I cried for my own children who were now confronted by how fragile life could be and how bad and murderous people can be. This was the underbelly of life, that I would never wish my children, or any others to have to know firsthand. … I cried for hours, and even as I write this almost two years later my eyes are wet with tears."

Several said the murder impacted their ability to work or eat, and made them mistrust others.

One woman wrote that her daughter is now afraid to get the mail, because they live near the woods. A friend of Tristyn's wrote: "It made me feel angry for what he did, made me feel sad that I lost my friend, made me scared to fall asleep and scared to be around people."

One mother said her daughter refused to attend Patriot Oaks Academy, where Fucci and Bailey went to school, even though the family specifically bought their house so she could attend. The family moved into the neighborhood Mother’s Day 2021, the day of the murder. Her daughter was also 13 years old.

“The larger impact of that crime changed the way people raise their children, interact with their neighbors, trust their fellow man,” wrote one.

Going forward for Tristyn

Still others said the crime inspired them to savor each day and treasure their children.

“Tristyn, who I never had the chance to meet, has encouraged my path of how to love them in the difficult moments… a significant reminder of how precious life is," one wrote.

Tristyn who inspired nearly 100 letters. And she also inspired those who loved her, whose hearts broke when she was killed, to keep going.

A family friend, who said Stacey Bailey called him on the day Tristyn went missing to ask what to do, said his world has never been the same. When he moved for a new job, he asked himself, "Why should I get close to people again? Why should I create relationships like I did with the Bailey's?" 

He found his answer: "It took me two months for me to get the guts to even try. There is only one reason I did... Tristyn. I channeled the sweet spirit of Tristyn. She wouldn't want me in the room by myself. She would want me excited for my new opportunity. She would want me to challenge myself and spread my wings. So to this day I ask myself... What would Tristyn want me to do today?" To all who loved her, he wrote, "We live our lives now because she can longer live hers."

One of Tristyn's teachers had a similar message of hope and honoring Tristyn's memory.

“It is now up to us as a community to find the light within ourselves and others, raise it up, shine it brightly, and guide those affected by her loss. We have to bring this light back in honor of Tristyn, because that is how she will live on. If we don’t, then he will have taken more from us than that beautiful girl.” 

The letters were made publicly available on the eve of sentencing. In a statement issued over the weekend, the Bailey family wrote, "Over the next week, our family will be required to endure one of the most painful experiences of our lives.  We are aware that there will be significant coverage of the sentencing proceedings at both the local and national level. It is very important to our family, and Tristyn’s friends, that her legacy is not lost nor overshadowed by these proceedings."

You can read more about who Tristyn was by clicking here.

First Coast News will livestream Aiden Fucci's sentencing on YouTube, on the First Coast News app and on our website.

Credit: FCN
Teen killer Aiden Fucci appears ahead of sentencing for murder.

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