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Jennifer Hudson’s ex-brother-in-law found guilty

Published: May 12, 2012 | 8:19 am
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Chicago — A jury on Friday convicted the former brother-in-law of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson of murdering her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in what prosecutors’ described as an act of vengeance by a jilted husband.

William Balfour, who faces a mandatory life prison sentence, showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Hudson, who expressed her disdain for him when she took the witness stand, was overcome. She bit her lip, tears welling in her eyes and streaming down her cheeks. A minute later, she looked over at her sister, Julia Hudson, and smiled.

Jurors deliberated for three days before reaching their verdict against Balfour, a 31-year-old former gang member who was the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister at the time of the murders.

With no surviving witnesses to the Oct. 24, 2008, slayings or fingerprints, prosecutors built a circumstantial case against Balfour. Witnesses said he threatened to kill the entire family if Julia Hudson spurned him.

Balfour’s attorneys proposed an alternate theory: that someone else in the crime-ridden neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side targeted the family because of alleged crack-cocaine dealing by Jennifer Hudson’s brother, Jason Hudson. But they presented no evidence to support the theory.

Public defender Amy Thompson said she would appeal the verdict.

Hudson, 30, rose to prominence as a 2004 “American Idol” finalist. But she became a bona fide star for her performance in the film adaptation of the musical, “Dreamgirls,” for which she won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Balfour had lived in the Hudsons’ Englewood home after marrying Julia Hudson in 2006. He moved out in early 2008 after falling out with his wife, but witnesses told jurors he often stalked the home.

The killings occurred the morning after Julia Hudson’s birthday, and prosecutors said he became enraged when he stopped by the home and saw a gift of balloons in the house from her new boyfriend.

After his estranged wife left for her job as a bus driver on the morning of Oct. 24, 2008, prosecutors said Balfour went back inside the home with a handgun and shot Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, in the back; he allegedly then shot Jason Hudson, 29, twice in the head as he lay in bed.

Prosecutors said Balfour then drove off in Jason Hudson’s SUV with Julian – Julia’s son – and shot the boy several times in the head as he lay behind a front seat. His body was found in the abandoned vehicle miles away after a three-day search.

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