A Florida teen accused of stabbing a 13-year-old cheerleader 114 times nearly two years ago pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Monday, authorities said.
The plea in the brutal stabbing of Tristyn Bailey came one day before jury selection was to begin in the trial of Aiden Fucci, who was 14 when he was arrested in the May 9, 2021, killing, the state’s attorney’s office for Florida’s Seventh Judicial District said in a statement.
“Today was a major event in this case,” State Attorney R.J. Larizza said.
Prosecutors will seek the maximum penalty, he added — a life sentence.
The office’s statement said no plea offer had been made. A lawyer for Fucci did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, Tristyn's family said that they were confident prosecutors would have secured a guilty verdict but that the surprise plea brought "significant relief," according to the NBC affiliate WTLV of Jacksonville.
"Just as Tristyn fought for her life, we equally fought for her and would not agree to any plea deal," the statement said. "We were fully aligned with the prosecutor in rejecting the proposed plea deals mentioned by the Public Defender during the plea hearing.”
Tristyn was found dead in woods outside Jacksonville. According to a probable cause affidavit, Fucci told authorities that he got into an argument with Tristyn and pushed her to the ground after they left a mutual friend's before dawn on May 9.
While he was still considered a witness, Fucci snapped a photo of himself in the back of a police vehicle flashing a peace sign and posted the image to social media with the caption: "Hey guys has inybody seen Tristyn lately."
He was arrested May 10 and initially accused of second-degree murder.
Days later, a grand jury indicted him on a first-degree murder charge, and Fucci was to be tried as an adult. At the time, Larizza said the sheer number of stab wounds the girl suffered supported the charge and showed the attack was premeditated.
Fucci is expected to return to court Feb. 23, when a judge will schedule a sentencing date.