Aiden Fucci, 16, the Florida teenager who admittedly killed 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey by stabbing her 114 times before dumping her body in the woods on Mother’s Day weekend in 2021, was sentenced to life in prison with a sentence review after 25 years.
“This was not an immature or an impetuous type of crime,” Judge R. Lee Smith said. “It makes it unique, it makes it extraordinary. What is also very troubling is that this crime had no motive. This was not done out of greed. It was not done out of 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.”
“It was done for no other reason than to satisfy this defendant’s internal desire to feel what it was like to kill someone,” the judge went on. “It was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense for moral or legal justification. And it heinous, atrocious, and cruel. This factor and this factor alone makes this case and this defendant more than just unique.”
Prosecutors had requested a life sentence for the juvenile offender who senselessly murdered the beloved cheerleader.
The U.S. Supreme Court has long made it clear that mandatory life sentences for children are not constitutional, can only be applied to children who are convicted of homicide, and even in such cases, “a lifetime in prison is a disproportionate sentence for all but the rarest of children, those whose crimes reflect irreparable corruption.”
Fucci, the court determined, is irreparably corrupt.
Earlier this week, prosecutor Jennifer Dunton offered a series of arguments as to why the court should make an individual determination to give Fucci “the harshest punishment out there.”
After being incarcerated, Fucci would extort, threaten, manipulate, scare, “exert dominance,” and get into fights with others; often bragging about the specifics and severity of Bailey’s murder in order to get what he wanted – from both inmates and guards – in jail.
“I don’t shoot my victims,” the prosecutor said, quoting the defendant, “I stab them face to face.”
All of this, the state said, suggested there was no remorse for his past crimes, or desire to change his future behavior exhibited by the defendant, a factor that weighed in favor of a life sentence.
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“Aiden Fucci told his closest friends and his girlfriend his innermost thoughts and desires,” Dunton said. “And he told them that real-life violence was his interest. He wanted to know. He wanted to kill someone and do it by stabbing them – which is clearly different than shooting someone and it causes much suffering. He knew how and he knew when he was going to do it. How he was going to do it was he was going to take someone in the woods, just like that, and he was going to kill them. He was going to stab them until they died.”
It was only a matter of time, the state argued, before Fucci would satiate his oft-expressed desire. All that was left was a “when” and a “who,” Dunton told the court after plodding through the factors mandated by the high court’s precedent for sentencing youthful offenders to life in prison and applying them to the facts of how the young girl died.
“And, unfortunately judge, his ‘when’ ended up being May 9th of 2021 and his ‘who’ ended up being Tristyn Bailey,” the prosecutor concluded. “And for all of the evidence that we have presented in this case, all of the factors, and showing you how those factors show you who Aiden Fucci is, the uniqueness of the crime – all of that shows you that this particular juvenile should be sentenced to the harshest penalty possible. Which is life in prison. And he will be entitled to a 25-year review. And he will have a chance to attempt to rehabilitate himself and prove himself at that time.”
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The defense offered evidence, from an ex-girlfriend, that Fucci came from an abusive home in an effort to mitigate his sentence.
In delivering the sentence, Judge Smith found that the defendant was of “average maturity” at the time of the slaying, that he had “a fairly normal home environment,” with both parents involved in his life. The court was not convinced by the claims of physical or emotional abuse.
“There is only one appropriate sentence in this case,” the judge determined.
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