Dear Historic City News readers,
This morning’s surprise change of plea brings our family significant relief. Foremost, we would like to give thanks to God. Since this nightmare began, we have had the love and support of so many. We know so many have lifted Tristyn, our family, and her friends up in prayer. The members of our community have been simply exceptional in the support they have given us.
Just as Tristyn fought for her life, we fought for her equally and would not agree to any plea deal. We were fully aligned with the Prosecutor in rejecting the proposed plea deals mentioned by the Public Defender during the plea hearing. Today is an important milestone in the journey of Justice for Tristyn. As mentioned, we would not be at this point without the dedicated efforts of so many. We know that it has been a team effort to which so many have contributed. On behalf of Tristyn and our family, thank you.
With the detailed and exemplary investigative work of the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office, along with the trial preparation by the 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, we are confident that the jury would have returned a guilty verdict. We cannot say enough about R.J. Larizza’s team at the State Attorney’s Office. Your tireless efforts, professionalism, and support demonstrate your commitment to justice for our community. We wish we could thank everyone by name, and there will be a time for that, but there are a few people we want to thank individually.
To begin, we are blessed to have Jennifer Dunton as our lead prosecutor. Throughout the process, she has been extremely respectful of our family whilst being keenly focused on delivering Justice. Mrs. Dunton – thank you for all your efforts to this point. We never questioned what the outcome would be with her thorough preparation. Along with fellow prosecutor Mark Johnson, we have no doubt that Mrs. Dunton and Mr. Johnson would have been successful in getting a guilty verdict in any Florida courtroom. We have faith in their abilities in the upcoming sentencing phase.
This case was built off the exceptional work of the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office led by Sheriff Rob Hardwick. We were immediately given confidence in the case being built by Sergeant Kurt Hannon who was the lead during the criminal investigation. We know his updates were representative of the entire SJSO: our sincere thanks to them all. In addition to Sergeant Hannon, we cannot express enough thanks to our victim’s advocate, Ashley Mitchell. We don’t know how we would navigate this without you.
The partnership between the SJSO and 7th Circuit SAO, along with the collaborative efforts of the FDLE and Duval County Corrections office, have reflected amazing cooperation between government agencies. Again, we are thankful for everyone that has contributed to the journey of getting Justice for Tristyn.
Of special note, we extend our thanks to the families of these agencies as we know they have made many sacrifices as well. For the incredible community support we have received, we remain committed to reflecting on the kind and good deeds in honor of Tristyn’s spirit. With the backing of our community, neighborhood, counselors, friends, and family, we have been able to endure the nearly two years since Tristyn was taken from us while managing to share her cheer: “We got this!”
This is obviously not over yet. There is still a sentencing phase that our family must endure. Make no mistake, the most important things to our family at this time are justice and Tristyn’s legacy. As the judicial process continues, we will have more to say publicly. However, we must respect the judicial process so we ask that the media and the community continue to respect that process and our family’s privacy.
On this note, we would like to express our thanks and gratitude to attorney Matthew H. Hinson who has stepped in to serve as our representative for all media contacts and inquiries.