When Jennifer Hudson first learned her mother, brother and nephew had all been killed by the same man, her world was turned upside. Then she learned their killer was her sister’s estranged husband William Balfour.
Condolences came in from all Hudson’s high-profile celebrity friends, including the former President himself, Barack Obama. Everyone was distraught over the tragedy, but few people knew anything about the man who pulled the trigger. Especially what he said in his first publicized interview…
They Didn’t Like How Balfour Treated Julia
Before Jennifer’s sister Julia even married Balfour, her entire family felt he was no good. No one liked the way Balfour treated Julia and no one wanted them to get married.
He Had A Jealous Streak
Balfour was so jealous that he would become angry when Julian kissed his mother. He would tell his 7-year-old stepson to “Get off his wife.”
A Neighbor Heard Balfour Threaten Julia
Valerie Griffin, Julia’s neighbor, heard Balfour saying threatening things after domestic fights. He used to say, “I’m going to kill Julia and the whole family.” Valerie thought Balfour only said this out of anger towards Julia.
“I’m Going To Kill Your Family”
According to court records, Balfour threatened to kill members of Hudson’s family on at least two dozen occasions before the three murders. The threats began after Balfour and his wife Julia broke up and he moved out of the family house. Balfour told Julia, “If you ever leave me, I’m going to kill you, but I’m going to kill your family first. You will be the last to die.”
Balfour Tried To Persuade Former Girlfriend To Give Him An Alibi
Brittany Acoff-Howard 21, testified against Balfour after he asked her to lie about his whereabouts. This happened just hours after prosecutors alleged he killed the three members of Jennifer’s family.
Balfour Called Brittany After The Shootings
Brittany said she heard a rumor that there had been a shooting at the Hudson home on South Yale Avenue and immediately called Balfour. Four minutes later Balfour called back and said, “Brittany if anybody asks you, I’ve been out west all day.”
Balfour Cancelled A Meeting With His Parole Agent On The Day Of The Murders
Balfour was supposed to meet with his former parole agent, Kenneth Drayton for a routine check-up on the afternoon of the killings. At the time, Balfour was on parole for a 1999 attempted murder conviction, a fact that jurors didn’t know. Balfour called Kenneth at about 3 p.m. saying he was going to have to reschedule.
While on the phone with Kenneth, Balfour said he was “babysitting on the West Side.” Then Kenneth thinks he hears a child in the background, which was Jennifer’s 7-year-old nephew Julian. Hours later, Julian was dead.
Balfour’s A Career Criminal
The police paperwork on Balfour is pages long, stemming back to when he was 14. He was a gang member, a car-jacker, burglar, and drug dealer. In the 10th grade, he dropped out of school, and even his father and brother are both ex-cons.
In June 2008, police found drugs in Balfour’s car after pulling him over for speeding. The Illinois Department of Corrections was contacted about the new drug charges since Balfour was out on parole for the 1999 attempted murder conviction. However, the agency ultimately decided not to return him to prison.
After answering questions about their knowledge of singer and actress Jennifer Hudson, 12 jurors and six alternates were chosen for trial. Potential jurors were asked if they were familiar with Hudson’s career, if they regularly watched “American Idol,” and even if they were members of Weight Watchers, a weight-loss program which Hudson is a celebrity spokesperson for.
The Jury was composed of 10 women and 8 men and was racially diverse. While waiting for opening statements to begin one month later, Judge Charles Burns asked jurors not to watch “American Idol” because Jennifer was scheduled to make an appearance on an upcoming episode.
During opening statements, Balfour’s defense attorney told jurors that police targeted him for the crime because they were under pressure to solve the high-profile case quickly. This was all because of Jennifer Hudson’s notoriety.
No DNA, But Gunshot Residue
Illinois State Police found gunshot residue on the steering wheel of Balfour’s car and the ceiling of the Suburban home that Jennifer’s brother Jason’s body was found in. However, none of Balfour’s DNA was found on the murder weapon, but that didn’t mean he never handled the gun. Some people shed skin cells faster and it’s a possibility that Balfour wore gloves when he committed the murders.
The jury deliberated for 18 hours before finding Balfour guilty on three counts of murder and several other charges in connection with the deaths of Darnell Donerson, Jason Hudson and Hudson’s nephew Julian King. After the verdict, jury members described the process they used during their long deliberation.
First, they voted on whether each witness was credible or not. Then they created a timeline of the crime to compare it with the alibi Balfour’s attorney outlined during the trial. When the jury took its first vote, it was 9 to 3 in favor of conviction. While some jurors tried to make Balfour innocent, the facts just weren’t there.
When he was sentenced, Balfour was allowed to make a statement. In it, he offered condolences to the Hudson family although he maintained his innocence. “My deepest prayers go out to Julian King. I loved him. I still love him. I’m innocent your honor.”
“You Have The Heart Of An Arctic Night”
Under Illinois law, Balfour faced life in prison without parole for the three murders. Unfortunately, Illinois law does not allow the death penalty under any circumstances. After Judge Burns sentenced Balfour, he told him, “You have the heart of an arctic night. Your soul is as barren as dark space.”
Balfour Continues To Deny Involvement In 2016
In Balfour’s first publicized interview since his conviction, he stated that his conviction was due to a large conspiracy that included the police, witnesses, and lawyers. When asked why Julian King was murdered, Balfour said, “He could identify me and that’s why he got killed. Or he killed him because he could identify him. Now Julian was smart, he could remember faces.”
It was this senseless violence that Jennifer wanted to escape from when she left her hometown of Englewood to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Yet, despite this horrific tragedy, Jennifer and her sister Julia are remaining strong.