Jennifer Hudson's 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, whom she called Tugga Bear, was murdered by his stepfather, William Balfour, who also killed Hudson's mother and brother, in 2008.
Updated: June 14, 2012 8:25AM
We can’t help but wonder what the future might have held for Julian King had he not been killed at the gentle age of 7.
What chance, we must ask, did little Julian have of growing up safe and healthy, on the right side of the law and successful in life?
Not enough chance. He was loved and prized, without a doubt. But he was surrounded, as well, by lawlessness and danger.
As we followed the trial of William Balfour, the now-convicted murderer of singer Jennifer Hudson’s family, we came to believe that there was one true innocent in this tragic story, Hudson’s nephew, Julian.
And how sad it is, we thought, that even his murder has failed to shine a spotlight on the plight of all the Julians in this city, children raised in homes and neighborhoods full of violence and crime, the odds stacked again them.
Julian lived in a house where an uncle, according to testimony at the trial, cooked cocaine down to crack in the kitchen.
The uncle, Jason Hudson, sold drugs right out of the house, with a cocaine addict manning the door.
The uncle walked with a limp, the result of getting shot during a home invasion in Michigan a few years before.
Julian’s stepfather, Balfour, had been convicted of attempted murder in 1999. He repeatedly flew into rages and vowed to kill the entire family, shouting so loudly that at least once a neighbor on the sidewalk heard him.
“A few shootouts,” another witness testified, had taken place on the block during that summer of 2008, just a couple of months before Julian, his uncle and his grandmother were killed.
To be clear, Julian was not failed by every adult in his short life. His mother, Julia Hudson, worked to provide for him. She drove a bus. And his famous aunt, Jennifer Hudson, tried to lift and save her troubled family.
When the family’s home in Englewood was burglarized that summer, Jennifer paid for new windows, locks and even bars. She gave her sister Julia an expensive treadmill to help her lose weight.
She woke up every morning to a text message from her mother, Darnell Donerson, and she gave her mother signed blank checks to be used to pay for groceries and clothing and other expenses.
Jennifer lovingly called Julian her Tugga Bear.
This is how it so often goes in families and neighborhoods on the edge. Working people who drag themselves out of bed at dawn live side by side with drug dealers who get up in the afternoon. Loving people live with dangerous people.
And the children grow up in between, catching a break or no break at all.