Just weeks before accused killer William Balfour is slated to stand trial , new details have emerged about his alleged role in the slaying of Oscar-winning singer Jennifer Hudson’s family. Hudson has rarely spoken about the October 24, 2008, killings, which took the lives of her mother (Darnell Donerson), brother (Jason Hudson) and nephew (Julian King), but recent court filings by Cook County prosecutors obtained by the Chicago Tribune shed a bit more light on the days leading up to the murders.
At the time her career was peaking, Hudson made a point of calling or texting her mother at home in Chicago every day between 9 and 11 a.m., according to the paper. But when she didn’t hear back by late in the morning of October 24, she texted and realized something was wrong when there was no response.
A few hours later, the bodies of her mother and brother were found in the family’s Englewood home, followed three days later by the discovery of her young nephew’s body in a stolen vehicle abandoned on the city’s west side.
While Hudson has not spoken in detail about the killings or the alleged perpetrator William Balfour, the estranged husband of her sister Julia, when the trial kicks off in a few weeks, the singer’s fame could bring intense media scrutiny to the proceedings. Prosecutors are working to include critical testimony from Julia — who was not with Balfour at the time of the killings — but they fear that a state law that considers communication between spouses confidential could create hurdles.
Prosecutors are hoping to block Julia from talking about conversations she had with her estranged husband to stop her from talking about repeated death threats Balfour allegedly made in the months after the couple separated in February 2008. Court filings also revealed that despite their split, the couple’s sexual relationship continued until just days before the murders. Julia Hudson told police that Balfour had threatened her dozens of times, but that she never took the threats seriously because she didn’t think he would act on them.
It’s unclear if prosecutors will call Hudson to testify, but they have included her on the witness list for the trial, which is slated to begin on April 9.
Among the other revelations in the court filings:
» Hudson had known Balfour since childhood because their families lived just blocks away from each other and they attended the same elementary school.
» Police first interviewed Hudson at the Trump Tower hotel in downtown Chicago shortly after the slayings, at which point she revealed that there had been tensions between the families over the relationship between Julia and Balfour. Hudson said she’d heard that Balfour had fought with one of Julia’s former boyfriends.
» Hudson also revealed that her family did not know about Julia’s marriage to Balfour in late 2006 until several months after the wedding and that she had advised her sister against marrying Balfour because of concerns about his troubled background. She also said that Balfour had not treated her sister well, allegedly confronting Julia at her workplace one time and threatening to kill her because he thought she was having an affair with a co-worker.
» The singer also said that her brother, Jason, had stopped having friends over to the family home after Julia’s house keys and his .45-caliber handgun were stolen. Hudson told investigators that Balfour was later heard around the neighborhood bragging about stealing the weapon. Police found a .45-caliber gun in the bushes not far from the body of Hudson’s nephew and ballistics experts later connected the weapon to the three killings.
» After police discovered the bodies of Hudson’s mother and brother, an amber alert was issued for 7-year-old Julian King. Hudson offered an undisclosed reward for any information leading to Julian’s whereabouts, but no ransom demands were ever made and the reward money was not claimed.
» Two teenage neighbors told investigators that they heard gunshots coming from the direction of the Hudson home around 9 a.m. on the day of the killings. Neither called police because, they said, “gunfire is occasionally heard in the area.” According to court filings, Balfour’s cell phone records indicate he was near the Hudson home until shortly after 9 a.m. on the day of the murders.
» Balfour reportedly showed up at the Hudson home on the morning of the killings and appeared agitated, saying he’d been up all night drinking. He spotted balloons that Julia received from a new boyfriend for Sweetest Day, got angry and punched the balloons, according to police. When Julia left the house to go to work, Balfour remained behind outside.