CHICAGO – Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson’s brother-in-law threatened to kill her family if her sister left him and made good on that promise in a horrific triple homicide, prosecutors said Wednesday.
It took three days for police to discover the body of Hudson’s seven-year-old nephew, who was snatched from the family home after Hudson’s mother and brother were shot dead in October 2008.
Hudson and her sister Julia broke down into silent tears after prosecutors showed the grisly crime scene photos.
Their mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, dead on the floor in her nightgown. Their brother, Jason Hudson, 29, dead in bed wearing nothing but a pair of green underwear.
Little Julian King’s lifeless arm stretched out on the back seat of his uncle’s stolen sport utility vehicle, his crumpled body on the floor.
“This defendant was fuelled by his obsession, his jealousy,” assistant state’s attorney Jennifer Bagby told jurors.
“He told her again and again: If you leave me, I’ll kill you. I’ll kill your family first. You’ll be the last to die.”
The murders in Chicago’s South Side upended Hudson’s life less than two years after the one-time “American Idol” contestant collected a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in “Dreamgirls.”
The two week long trial opened a window onto the troubled Englewood neighborhood where Hudson was raised and which her family never left.
Many of the witnesses had criminal records and several testified about how Hudson’s brother was a small-time drug dealer.
Defense attorney Amy Thompson insisted that police failed to look into Jason Hudson’s drug connections and instead decided William Balfour was the only suspect.
“They decided right away who did this and they decided to build a case rather than investigate a crime,” she said in closing arguments.
Thompson accused police of planting crucial evidence – like the keys to the Jason Hudson’s stolen vehicle found on Balfour when he was arrested – and tore apart the credibility of witnesses.
“My client is an innocent man,” an impassioned Thompson told jurors.
“You tell them all to do the right thing – to find the people who actually committed this crime and let William Balfour go free.”
Prosecutor James McKay excoriated Thompson’s conspiracy theory, telling jurors that if police wanted to frame Balfour they would have done a better job and put some of his DNA on the gun or in the stolen SUV.
He insisted that a “tsunami” of evidence pointed to Balfour’s guilt – including the damning fact that he did nothing to help search for the missing Julian or comfort his estranged wife.
Instead, Balfour hid at a girlfriend’s house and made phone calls to frantically try to build a false alibi before he was tracked down by police.
“This crime wasn’t motivated by money or drugs – this was personal,” McKay said.
A vindictive drug dealer wanting to send a message would have killed Julian in the house, not driven his body away and hidden the stolen vehicle, McKay said.
“The only message you send by doing that is not to Jason, it’s to that child’s mother,” he said before urging jurors to find Balfour guilty and “give justice to Darnell and to Jason and to Julian.”
Jurors began deliberations late Wednesday.
Hudson, who released her second studio album “I Remember Me” in March 2011, and sang “I Will Always Love You” in memory of the late Whitney Houston at this year’s Grammy awards, has attended the entire trial.
She was accompanied to court by her longtime partner, professional wrestler David Otunga.