Cops Describe Finding Slain Hudson Family Members

Hudson briefly left courtroom before prosecutors showed photos of bloodied bodies

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In this courtroom sketch, Jennifer Hudson (left) is seen sitting next to her sister, Julia, in a Chicago courtroom as testimony continues against the man accused of killing their three family members. Charlie Wojciechowski reports. (Published Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012)

    The trial of the man charged with murdering three of Jennifer Hudson's family members resumed Tuesday with the Oscar-winner shutting her eyes as a police officer described finding her dead family members and later leaving the courtroom before photos of their bodies were shown.

    Hudson watched must of the testimony before getting up and leaving shortly before prosecutors displayed pictures of her mother and brother's bloodied bodies. Prosecutors often let family members know when they will be showing unsettling evidence.

    A day after Hudson offered emotional testimony, prosecutors began shifting their focus to presenting crime scene evidence in the case against her former brother-in-law, William Balfour.

    Balfour was estranged from his wife, Hudson's sister, at the time of the killings. He has pleaded not guilty to murdering Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

    Several of the photographs showed Hudson's mother, 57-year-old Darnell Donerson, sprawled face down on the floor, with blood staining her white nightgown. Donald Fanelli, the forensics expert who was on the scene the day of the killings, testified that Hudson's mother may have used a broom by her hand in one picture to fend off the attacker.

    Other photos showed Hudson's 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, with a gunshot wound hear his ear, his head still on his pillow as he lay in bed.

    Earlier in the day, Hudson hung her head and shut her eyes as Chicago police Sgt. David Dowling described finding her mother's body in the living room with gunshot wounds through her back. Dowling described finding Jason Hudson dead in his bed, with the sheets pulled up as if he had been sleeping.

    Jennifer Hudson, wearing a black top and green skirt, sat in a fourth row bench well within view of jurors for much of the day Tuesday.

    Another officer, Jennifer Bryk, testified about the Amber Alert and frantic search for Hudson's nephew, Julian King, who was found in an SUV three days later.

    Abdullah Smith, an acquaintance of Balfour and a felon who pleaded guilty to a pair of Milwaukee bank robberies, took the stand as the third witness. Smith said Balfour mentioned to him in August 2008 he wanted to fight Jason Hudson. Balfour also said Julia Hudson sent him a text saying she didn't love him anymore, Smith told the jury.

    Michael Hurst was the fourth witness. Hurst lives above Smith and goes by the nickname "Daddyo." He said he knew Balfour by the name "Flex" and Smith by the name "Duke."

    A fifth witness, Tyrone Dunbar, said he lived across from the Hudsons and did mechanical work on Balfour's car. He told the court he tried to purchase cocaine from Balfour shortly before the slayings.  

    Prosecutors also played a surveillance video showing Balfour getting out of a car at a gas station near the Hudson house on Chicago's South Side before the killings. Prosecutors are trying to show he was in the area at the time -- something Balfour has denied.

    Dunbar said Balfour was hesitant to go into the gas station because he was "dirty" and because Balfour said he had a gun on him. Dunbar said, however, that he never saw Balfour with a gun.

    As the video played on a courtroom screen, Hudson rested her head on her knees for several minutes.

    Other witnesses called by the state included the gas station manager and Lonnie Simpson, Hudson's half-brother and a security guard for Jennifer Hudson productions.

    Simpson told the court that Jason Hudson was a well-known drug dealer who had a "beautiful" relationship with the neighborhood. He said he gave Jason Hudson a gun for protection because he'd been shot in Michigan before moving to Chicago. That gun, Simpson testified, was later taken by Balfour.

    Testimony for the day wrapped up just before 6 p.m. with jurors being reminded that they're not to discuss the case with anyone.

    Prosecutors created a buzz Monday by calling the Oscar winner and "American Idol'' finalist as their first witness, but on Tuesday they began getting down to the nitty-gritty of their case.

    With no surviving witnesses to the murders, prosecutors must offer overwhelming circumstantial evidence that Balfour committed the grisly crime on Oct. 24, 2008. One challenge will be tying Balfour to the alleged murder weapon, a silver and black .45-calibre handgun.

    Prosecutors claim Balfour targeted the family in a horrific act of vindictiveness against his ex-wife. They believe he became enraged by balloons he saw at the home that he thought were from her new boyfriend.

    Defense attorneys have said the killing could be connected to alleged drug dealing by Hudson's brother.

    Prosecutors contend Balfour went inside the three-story house around 9 a.m. and shot Hudson's mother and brother. Investigators allege he then drove off in Jason Hudson's sport utility vehicle with 7-year-old Julian inside, and later shot the boy in the head as he lay behind a front seat.

    If convicted of at least two of the murder counts, Balfour would face a mandatory life sentence.