Jennifer Hudson skips showing of grisly crime scene at murder trial
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN AND LAUREN FITZPATRICK Staff Reporters April 24, 2012 12:46PM
Michele Davis-Balfour walks through the lobby of the Criminal Courts building at 26 & California. Her son, William Balfour has been charged with killing 3 members of the Hudson family. Tuesday, April 24, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: May 26, 2012 8:14AM
Jennifer Hudson mostly sat still, sandwiched between her bow-tied fiancé, David Otunga, and sister, Julia, as attorneys combed through stomach-churning details of her family’s brutal slayings.
The “Dreamgirls” star, who wore an olive skirt, black sweater and sienna colored riding boots, bowed her head Tuesday morning when the first officers on the scene described finding the bodies: Their mother on the living room floor and their brother still in bed, covered in blankets.
But when it came time for the court testimony that included bloody, sometimes naked photos of her murdered loved ones, it was too much to take.
After Cook County Judge Charles Burns called for a short break Tuesday afternoon, the Oscar-winning actress and her sister never returned to the courtroom to see Chicago Police evidence technician Donald Fanelli take the stand at the trial of the man accused of killing their mother, brother and Julia’s 7-year-old son.
The second day of William Balfour’s murder trial was fraught with unease, as the Hudsons’ half brother confirmed that he and their deceased brother, Jason, were drug dealers.
As Jennifer Hudson’s fame grew from an “American Idol” contestant to superstar, so did the gifts she sent to her family who still lived in the Englewood home she grew up in: A $7,000 treadmill for her big sister, Julia, who wanted more exercise. And a white SUV for her big brother, Jason.
She testified Monday that she didn’t know what her brother did for a living. Tuesday, she hung her head low, her fiancé’s hand on her back as Lonnie Simpson, her half-brother and bodyguard, detailed his and Jason Hudson’s drug dealing exploits.
The white SUV helped Jason Hudson shuttle around dimebags of crack cocaine to customers, since he wouldn’t sell out of his mother’s house, in the 7000 block of South Yale, Simpson said.
Hudson didn’t have a day job or a steady paycheck, Simpson said.
“He sold drugs basically,” Simpson said. “I sold drugs with him.”
And Hudson always paid his suppliers in cash, Simpson said.
Simpson also bought Jason Hudson a gun, at their father’s bequest, a .45-caliber weapon, for protection. Balfour took that gun, and promised Simpson he’d return it with apologies to Jason Hudson.
Only prosecutors said Balfour used the black and silver weapon on the morning of Oct. 24, 2008.
But before Balfour allegedly pulled the trigger, he made a drug deal of his own, according to one of his alleged customers.
Tyrone A. Dunbar, whose backyard abutted the Hudsons’, testified that he solicited “rocks” — cocaine — from Balfour around 7 a.m.
Surveillance footage of a South Side gas station, played for the jury, showed Dunbar inside buying Hostess cupcakes to break a $20 for his $10 crack.
“He said he had it,” Dunbar said, “and he didn’t have change for a $20.”
Balfour, 30, denies he killed the Hudsons’ mother, Darnell Donerson, and brother, or his own 7-year-old stepson, Julian King, whose body was found three days later in Jason Hudson’s SUV on the West Side. Balfour’s attorneys say police rushed to close the case once they learned the victims were related to the Grammy-award winning singer, and should have investigated Jason Hudson’s drug business for possible suspects.
Prosecutors say Balfour shot the three closest to his estranged wife, Julia Hudson, in a jealous rage after threatening her for months to do so, telling her, “You will be the last to die. I will kill your family first.”
Later Tuesday, Fanelli interpreted the tall stack of photographs prosecutor Jennifer Bagby held up of the bodies, the blood left behind, the ransacked house.
Donerson, a broom lying near her fallen body, had been shot in the back and the left wrist. Blood stained her pink robe; her TV upstairs still was on. She had a cut finger and a wound in her side, said Fanelli, now retired.
Jason Hudson, shot in the back of the head, was found in his own bed, his burly body atop a comforter, Fanelli showed jurors. Blood glistened on his face.