Florida teen charged in 13-year-old girl’s death makes first court appearance

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ST. JOHNS, Fla. – Classmates, friends and family members gathered for a candlelight vigil in honor of a 13-year-old cheerleader whose body was found in the northeast Florida woods. Authorities said her community pointed to a 14-year-old neighbor in her death.

The juvenile made his first appearance in court, via a Zoom call which his parents were also on. A judge ordered him held on a second-degree murder charge for 21 days in the death of Tristyn Bailey. State attorney’s officials told the judge they would likely have a decision by then on whether he will be tried as an adult.

Tristyn was last seen early Sunday morning at the community center in the Durbin Crossing community south of Jacksonville. The two teens lived in the neighborhood and attended nearby Patriot Oaks Academy, where Tristyn was a cheerleader.

The body of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey was found Sunday evening hours after her family reported her missing.
(St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office)

Tanya White, one of her cheer coaches, remembered the teen’s “beautiful smile and presence.”

“She always was the first to hug me,” White said at Monday night’s vigil. “She was officially my favorite.”

Flowers and notes to Tristyn and her family were left outside the community center where she was last seen.

Her parents reported her missing around 10 a.m. on Sunday and a neighbor found Tristyn’s body in a heavily wooded area that evening, St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick said during a news conference on Monday afternoon. Hours later, investigators made an arrest.

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“The community helped us solve this case,” Hardwick said, offering few other details about what led them to arrest the teen.

Dive teams searched a lake on Monday, near where her body was found, Jacksonville’s FirstCoast News reported. A crime scene truck also was seen at the home of the teen charged with killing her.

The Associated Press does not generally publish the name of juveniles charged with crimes unless they are charged as adults. The sheriff said Monday that decision has not yet been made.

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