After a daylong search, a 13-year-old cheerleader was found murdered in Florida—and police have arrested a 14-year-old boy who attended the same school and was caught on video with the victim before she was killed.
Tristyn Bailey’s family reported her missing at 10 a.m. on Sunday, and residents of St. Johns County came out in droves to look for her. The hunt ended tragically that evening when her body was spotted in a wooded area.
The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office revealed Tuesday that she was stabbed to death; they said the seventh grader was clothed but did not confirm reports that she had on her cheerleading uniform.
Sheriff Rob Hardwick said the teen arrested and charged with second-degree murder is the only suspect connected to Tristyn’s death. The Daily Beast is not naming him because he is a juvenile and authorities have not decided whether to charge him as an adult.
“Our investigative team is out there interviewing all kinds of witnesses, whether directly or indirectly involved in this case,” Hardwick said at a press conference.
“We have a suspect in custody. That is the only suspect that has to do with the death of Tristyn.”
Hardwick said investigators are looking through a trove of social media posts that could be helpful to the case, but he did not comment on reports that a Snapchat under the boy’s name posted a photo of him in a patrol car with the caption: “Hey guys has anybody seen Tristyn lately?”
An arrest report says that video from a recreation area showed Bailey and the suspect together at 1:14 a.m. on Sunday, and about 30 minutes later, only he was seen leaving the area.
Police found clothing in the boy’s bedroom that tested positive for blood, the arrest report said. Under questioning, it said, he changed his story several times but made several admissions that led cops to charge him.
Both Tristyn and the suspect attended Patriot Oaks Academy in St. Johns, though police said it was unclear how they knew each other or if they were in the same class.
The sheriff acknowledged that news of Tristyn’s death had sparked an outpouring of emotion in the tight-knit county.
“We know the community is angry,” Hardwick said.
“We have a person charged with a serious crime, and we have a family that’s grieving the loss of a loved one. A child—a 13-year-old child.”
Locals came out Monday night for a series of vigils—at the community center where she was last seen alive and at Infinity Allstars, the gym where she was a competitive cheer athlete. Ribbons in aqua, her favorite color, festooned mailboxes across the area in her memory.
“It’s just heartbreaking for her family who can never see her again, be able to talk to her and say loving words to her,” Reagan Anderson, a friend of Tristyn, told Jax4News.