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A 13-year-old girl found slain in Florida had been stabbed a “horrific” number of times, allegedly at the hands of a schoolmate, according to St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick.
“This is a cold-blooded murder of a 13-year-old young girl who did not deserve to die,” Hardwick told WJXT of Tristyn Bailey’s tragic death.
Authorities have arrested a 14-year-old boy—who Oxygen.com has opted not to identify at this stage due to his age—in Bailey’s death and charged him with second-degree murder after her body was found Sunday in a wooded area near a retention pond in St. John's County, according to an arrest report obtained by Oxygen.com.
Bailey had “significant injury” to her head and a medical examiner determined she from sharp force trauma.
“I don’t wanna mention the number of times, but it is horrific. It is horrible,” Hardwick said of the fatal stabbing. “And the word accident is nowhere involved in this case.”
Bailey’s parents told investigators they last saw their daughter just after midnight on Sunday.
A surveillance camera from the North Durbin Amenities Center captured a person matching Bailey's description walking with a male around 1:14 a.m. that morning, according to the arrest report.
The two individuals were spotted again on another surveillance camera around 1:45 a.m. walking east on Saddlestone Drive; however, only one person was spotting returning around 3:27 a.m., authorities said.
Bailey’s body was found near the retention pond just east of Saddlestone Drive by a man aiding in the search for the missing teen Sunday night.
Investigators quickly zeroed in on a 14-year-old fellow student at Patriot Oaks Academy who matched the description of the male seen in the surveillance video. Investigators also found the clothes he had allegedly been wearing in the videos at his home, according to the police report.
The clothes were tested and returned a “presumptive positive” for blood, authorities said.
St. John County Sheriff’s Office Director Howard Cole told WJXT investigators also collected a substantial amount of other evidence in the case—which he deemed to be “very strong”—primarily at the teenage suspect’s home.
“In my 20 years of investigating homicides, this is probably one of the most tragic and difficult cases that we have faced,” Cole said.
Cole declined to provide specific details about the case, but said authorities believe the 14-year-old acted alone.
“I would say the other names that have been tossed around are classified as witnesses at this point,” Cole said.
Investigators are still trying to determine a possible motive in the slaying.
“We’re going to look at every aspect, every crime that’s out there. Our guys and girls are going to leave no stone unturned,” Hardwick said.
The teenage suspect sparked outrage after it appeared he posted a SnapChat photo of himself in the back of a patrol car, giving a peace sign with his hand. The image included the caption “Hey guys has inybody (sic) seen Tristyn lately.”
Cole confirmed that the photo had been of the teenage suspect.
“I look at that Snapchat photo just as everybody else does,” he said. “It is what it is. It’s in the file, part of the case.”
The case has prompted social media posts from friends and family who are mourning the 13-year-old but it's also garnered the attention of some who have chosen to attack grieving classmates and even the victim herself.
“What I saw that was most concerning is comments celebrating what happened and wishing the circumstances and the experience were as atrocious as possible,” child counselor Steven Montesinos told local station WTLV-WJXX.
Cole told WJXT that investigators are aware of the social media posts, which he called “reprehensible.”
“I’m aware of several social media posts, and our investigators are reviewing those, investigating those when it’s appropriate. But I would say that’s just kids being kids at this point. It’s nothing to do with our investigation,” he said. “These kids have no idea the magnitude of their words and the things they post, and it’s frankly reprehensible.”
The 7th Circuit State Attorney’s Office has not decided whether to charge the teen as an adult. He is currently being held in a juvenile detention facility.
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