Sunday, October 26, 2008
THE LATEST ON JENNIFER HUDSON FAMILY SLAUGHTER TRAGEDY
CHICAGO - It was the cradle of her greatest triumphs. It's now the scene of her darkest hour. Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson has often credited her rise to fame to her upbringing in the impoverished neighborhood on Chicago's South Side where she went to grade school and sang in church.
But on Saturday, her family struggled to come to terms with the shooting deaths of Hudson's mother and brother in Englewood, while praying for the safe return of Hudson's missing 7-year-old nephew.
Authorities reportedly had in custody a suspect with ties to the family, but no one had been charged with wrongdoing Saturday.
The Hudsons, who insisted on not allowing 27-year-old Jennifer's fame to alter their lives, lived in a three-story white house bookended by vacant lots. A grill and bottle of mustard stood on the lawn on Saturday, remnants of the barbecues they were known to throw on birthdays and holidays.
"They wouldn't turn anyone away," said Bob Israel, who lives in the neighborhood. "They didn't want to change a bit."
An autopsy Saturday showed Darnell Donerson, 57, and Jason Hudson, 29, died of gunshot wounds, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. Their deaths were ruled homicides.
Police said a family member entering Donerson's South Side home Friday found a woman's body on the living room floor. Officers later found Hudson shot in the bedroom. At least one of the victims suffered defensive wounds, said authorities, who described the shooting as domestic violence.
That same day, Julia Hudson, Jennifer Hudson's sister, reported her son Julian King missing.
William Balfour, a man suspected in the deaths and named in an Amber Alert issued Friday, was arrested Friday but had not been charged, law enforcement sources told the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.
Bond, who declined to comment Saturday on a suspect, said no one had been charged. She has said that investigators were talking to "a number of people in custody."
On Saturday, neighbors and friends gathered outside the Hudson home and planned to scour the neighborhood to look for the child.
"We need to find that kid by sundown," said Ziff Sistrunk, a friend of the Hudson family.
Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the FBI had been called to help in the search for the boy on "the possibility or any theory that he could have been take across state lines." But she added, "We have nothing to prove that."
Records from the Illinois Department of Corrections show Balfour, 27, is on parole and spent nearly seven years in prison for attempted murder, vehicular hijacking and possessing a stolen vehicle. Public records show one of Balfour's addresses as the home where Donerson and Jason Hudson were shot.
Balfour's mother, Michele Balfour, said that her son had been married to Hudson's sister, Julia Hudson, for several years, but that they were separated. She also said Donerson had ordered him to move out of the home last winter.
Michele Balfour told reporters that she offered her condolences to the family and denied her son had any involvement.
"All I want is for my son to come home," she said.
Jennifer Hudson's personal publicist, Lisa Kasteler, did not disclose the actress' whereabouts Friday or Saturday. She said the family wanted privacy and did not return messages seeking comment.
Hudson, who won an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2007 for her role in "Dreamgirls," talked of the influence of her family often.
In a recent AP interview she said her family helped keep her grounded because her fame hasn't changed them.
"My faith in God and my family, they're very realistic and very normal, they're not into the whole limelight kind of thing, so when I go home to Chicago that's just another place that's home," she said. "I stand in line with everybody else, or, when I go home to my mom I'm just Jennifer."
Neighbors, including Dana Thomson, whose daughter worked at Burger King with Jennifer and Julia Hudson, echoed the sentiment.
"The mother didn't want to move. She was not accustomed to it," Thomson said. "She knew everybody here."
The tragedy comes as Jennifer Hudson's star continues to rise. Her song "Spotlight" is No. 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts and her recent self-titled debut album is selling well. She was featured in this year's blockbuster "Sex and the City" movie and also stars in the hit film "The Secret Life of Bees."
UPDATE: The older sister of Jennifer Hudson has made a plea at a Chicago church for the return of her missing 7-year-old son.
Julia Hudson made the plea Saturday for her son Julian King. He was reported missing Friday from the family's home. The mother and brother of the sisters were found shot to death the same day in the home.
Thirty-one-year-old Julia Hudson says that her famous sister flew to Chicago after learning the news. It wasn't clear whether the Oscar-winning actress and singer was at the church.
Julia Hudson spoke from the podium at Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church alongside the boy's father, Greg King. She says her son "doesn't deserve this."
Authorities reportedly have a suspect in custody. No one has been charged.
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