ST AUGUSTINE, Florida (AP) — A Florida judge sentenced a 16-year-old Florida boy to life in prison on Friday for fatally stabbing a 13-year-old classmate on Mother's Day in 2021.
Aiden Fucci, 16, was 14 when he stabbed Tristyn Bailey at least 114 times in the woods near where the teens lived in north Florida, prosecutors said.
"This case is probably the most difficult and shocking case that this county, St Johns County, has dealt with," Judge Lee R Smith said before ordering Fucci to prison for life.
Fucci, who pleaded guilty just before his trial was set to start in February, was not eligible for the death penalty because of his young age at the time of the crime. His case may be reviewed in 25 years, according to Florida law. His attorneys had sought a 40-year sentence.
Before invoking the sentence, the judge spoke to Bailey's family, noting the tremendous toll the girl's slaying has had on them.
"Allow 'Bailey Sunday Fundays' to return to your home," he said, adding that Tristyn would have wanted her family to have fun again.
He also said he appreciated that her father, Forrest Bailey, was patient with the court proceedings.
The judge's order followed two days of testimony in a sentencing hearing. On Wednesday, members of the Bailey family read emotional victim impact statements to the court. Her older sister, Alexis Bailey, began her statement by dropping 114 aqua-coloured stone hearts into a jar — one for each stab wound her sister suffered.
Fucci's grandmother, Deborah Spiwak, also attended that hearing, pleading for mercy for her grandson on Wednesday.
"Please don't take him out of our lives forever ... I know there's some good in Aiden," she said.
The judge noted her comment on Friday.
"That took a lot of courage. That was not easy, for her. But it showed this court that he had a good, stable home environment," Smith said of Fucci's upbringing.
Fucci and his parents each wrote letters to the judge, apologising for his actions and asking for mercy.
Investigators said Fucci had told several friends he planned to kill someone, though it wasn't clear whether Bailey was his intended target from the beginning.