A Florida teen will be tried as an adult after he allegedly killed a girl, stabbing her 114 times in an attack so vicious that the blade broke and got stuck in the victim’s head, authorities said Thursday.
The 14-year-old suspected of killing Tristyn Bailey, a 13-year-old cheerleader at Patriot Oaks Academy, in the Jacksonville suburb of St. Johns, had originally been booked for second-degree murder. NBC News is not naming the suspect because he is a minor.
But the brutal actions cried out for a more severe charge, leading to a grand jury indictment for first-degree murder in adult court, 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza said.
“It brings me no pleasure to be charging a 14-year-old as an adult with first-degree murder,” Larizza told reporters.
“But I can tell you also the executive team and I reviewed all the facts, all the circumstances, the applicable law and it was not a difficult decision to make, that he should be charged as an adult. It’s a sad decision and a sad state of affairs.”
The girl was found dead in a wooded area May 9, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
“To say that it was horrific could arguably be made as an understatement,” Larizza said. “Bottom line, premeditation can be inferred certainly from just the sheer number of stab wounds that Tristyn Bailey had to suffer.”
Of the 114 stab wounds, 49 appeared to be defensive wounds to the girl’s hands, arms and head as she sought to fend off her attacker, officials said.
“Every time that arm went back and every time that arm went down, that was premeditation,” Larizza said, swinging his arm in a stabbing motion.
The suspect had told friends that “he intended to kill someone,” and DNA from the victim was on the suspect’s clothes, according to the prosecutor.
“He didn’t say who that was, but he indicated to witnesses that he was going to kill someone by taking them in the woods and stabbing them, which are certainly the facts of this case,” Larizza said.
The suspect posted a selfie to social media on May 9 while flashing a peace sign from the back of a police vehicle. A representative with the sheriff’s office said the suspect took the photo while Bailey was still missing and he was only considered a witness.
“Hey guys has inybody seen Tristyn lately” was written over the selfie.
A knife, believed to be the suspect’s, was found in a pond near Bailey’s body, officials said. The tip of that blade was “broken off” and “located by the medical examiner in the scalp of our victim,” according to Larizza.
“It’s difficult to hear all that,” St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office commander Howard “Skip” Cole. “We fully support the grand jury indictment.”
An attorney listed in online court records as representing the suspect was out of the office and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.
The Bailey family praised the work of the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office for Thursday’s developments, which they called “part of the initial steps to bring justice for Tristyn’s murder.”
“As we move forward, we will seek to keep Tristyn’s memory alive and the spirit of the community,” they said.
Phil Helsel contributed.