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Florida teen sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing 13-year-old classmate

<i>Pool</i><br/>Aiden Fucci
Aiden Fucci

By Melissa Alonso and Zoe Sottile, CNN

A judge sentenced Aiden Fucci — the Florida teenager convicted of first-degree murder for stabbing a 13-year-old over 100 times in 2021 — to life in prison on Friday.

Fucci, 16, entered his guilty plea in February 2023 at a hearing intended to get jury selection for his trial underway, according to CNN’s previous reporting. Fucci was 14 years old when he brutally killed classmate Tristyn Bailey in the woods in St. Johns County in northeastern Florida. He was charged as an adult.

During Friday’s sentencing, Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith said he took into account several factors when making his decision, including Fucci’s young age, the “heightened level” of premeditation, and that he was the “sole participant” who was not pressured by anyone to commit the “devastating crime.” He noted that Fucci was considered of “average maturity” by his peers and that he understood the consequences of his actions.

Bailey “suffered a painful and horrifying death from someone she trusted,” said Smith before announcing the sentence Friday.

He described the victim as an “energetic, happy child.”

“The loss which you have clearly suffered is unimaginable,” the judge said to Bailey’s family and friends. “Sometimes family members hope or expect that whatever the sentence is, that somehow or another that’s going to heal or provide closure.”

“I cannot provide a closure to this,” he went on. “It may close a chapter, but … I cannot bring her back.”

“You still have a lot of healing to do,” the judge said to tearful loved ones. “Her spirit lives on through each and every one of you.”

Fucci will have 30 days to appeal the sentence if he intends to do so, the judge said.

Bailey’s body was found on May 9, 2021, after her family had reported her missing earlier that day. She had been stabbed 114 times and sustained 49 defensive wounds to her head, hands, and arms, according to the state attorney.

The prosecutor said that Fucci had told witnesses that he intended to stab someone to death in the woods. Additionally, Fucci’s DNA was found on Bailey’s body, according to CNN’s previous reporting.

Following the sentencing, the victim’s father, Forrest Bailey, shared a touching message for his murdered daughter.

“Tristyn, I wanted to let you know we are so extremely proud of the person that you were in your time here,” he said.

“When you went out into the world, you gave it your very best. You should be proud of the friend that you were, the teammate you were, and what you left behind,” the father of five said. “We love you. We will continue to hold you in our hearts — and we will always be the ‘Bailey seven.'”

Forrest Bailey thanked the prosecutor, sheriff, and judge for the life sentence. He also asked people to be kind to members of Fucci’s family.

At Friday’s sentencing, the judge noted that while Fucci showed some potential for rehabilitation, the crime was “extraordinary.”

“His behavior was so unusual compared to individuals his age that there is a poor prognosis for rehabilitation,” he said.

He called the case the “most difficult and shocking case” that St. Johns County had encountered. Smith added that the crime was especially troubling because it had “no motive.”

“This was not done out of greed, it was not done in retaliation, retribution, or revenge, it was not a crime of passion, it was not a crime that was committed because he felt rejected by her. It was not done in a fit of uncontrollable anger. There was no reason. There was no purpose,” he went on. “It was done for no other reason than to satisfy this defendant’s internal desire to feel what it was like to kill someone.”

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