ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Tuesday will begin the sentencing for the teenager who killed Tristyn Bailey when she was just thirteen. It's a case that gained national attention almost right away.
Maybe that was due to the brutal details of the crime. But it's undeniable that the case also struck a chord because of Tristyn's innocence. A cheerleader, a beloved sibling, a young girl just starting out; her brilliant smile stood out in each picture on television screens and in newspapers.
While her killer will appear before cameras this week as a judge decides how long he will go to prison for his crimes, it is Tristyn's face her family wants people to think of. (A gallery of photos of Tristyn can be found here, and at the bottom of this story.)
In a statement released by their attorney Saturday, the 'Bailey 7' (a moniker that represents Tristyn, her four siblings, and her mother and father, Stacy and Forrest) says they want to make sure that her legacy isn't forgotten; that her death does not overshadow the memory of her life.
As court proceedings bring the world to St. Johns County, the Baileys want the world to learn about, and remember, the beloved, youngest one of them.
Tristyn was the baby of the family, "treasured in every way."
Her family wishes for her to be remembered as a beloved daughter who was dedicated, thoughtful and loved to spend time with her mother traveling to cheerleading events.
She was adored as a grandchild; her family says out of all of her siblings, she got more attention from her granddad than any of her siblings before her.
But her "best role" was as a sibling. She was the first to jump at the opportunity to spend time with her sisters, Brittany, Alexis and Sophia, and her brother, Teegan. She was 16 years younger than Brittany, but they were best friends.
Tristyn and Alexis shared a "deep love of animals," and Alexis was "almost a second mom" to her younger sister.
She and Teegan had a special bond, and they often discussed their futures, according to the Bailey family's statement.
And since Tristyn was born, she had an instant connection with her sister Sophia, the yin to her yang. "They spent all their time together and were the best of friends," the family wrote.
She is also remembered by her cheerleading teammates
On her team, she was a base, one of the team members at the bottom of the pyramid or stunt, who lifts the flyer up. Her family says she took her role protecting the flyers seriously. And her role was fitting: her teammates remembered her emotionally lifting them up as well, always encouraging.
Her coaches said she was always willing to fill in for injured team members on different squads.
Tristyn was a good student, but her true strength was making friends. Many of her classmates have reached out to her family to say that when they struggled to make friends, Tristyn was the "constant friendly voice talking to them." Her friends take her spirit with them, her family said.
"Tristyn made an incredible impact in 13 years and it is a travesty to not see what she would have done," her family wrote.
They signed their statement:
"We remain forever, Tristyn Bailey Strong!"
Signed, the Bailey 7.
Out of respect for Tristyn Bailey's family and her memory, we have chosen not to include details about her murder case in this story. Her killer pleaded guilty and will be sentenced this week. You can read more about the case here, here, and here. Read our story remembering Tristyn a year from her death here.