Man convicted of murdering singer Hudson family members

CHICAGO Sat May 12, 2012 4:54am IST

A courtroom sketch shows public defender Amy Thompson and defendant William Balfour at the Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago, Illinois, May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Tad Hathaway

A courtroom sketch shows public defender Amy Thompson and defendant William Balfour at the Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago, Illinois, May 9, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Tad Hathaway

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Illinois jury on Friday found the estranged brother-in-law of Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer and actress Jennifer Hudson guilty of killing three members of her family in 2008.

William Balfour, 31, was found guilty of fatally shooting Hudson's mother Darnell Donerson, 57, her brother Jason Hudson, 29, and her 7-year-old nephew Julian King. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jennifer Hudson, wearing a long black-and-white printed sweater, dabbed at her eyes after the verdict was read. She left the court with her sister, Julia, and her fiance, David Otunga.

Balfour's defense attorney, Amy Thompson, who referred to her client as a "very stoic young man," said she planned to ask for a new trial on June 8 at a hearing for motions. She said she believed there were grounds for appeal.

During 11 days of testimony in Cook County Criminal Court, prosecution witnesses said Balfour had repeatedly threatened to kill his estranged wife, Hudson's sister Julia, and her family if she went out with another man.

Julia Hudson testified she wanted a divorce and blamed him when her wages as a bus driver were garnished. After the two talked by cell phone on the morning of October 24, 2008, prosecutors alleged Balfour shot his way into the Hudson family home with a gun he had stolen from Jason Hudson.

Julia Hudson's son, Julian, was taken outside and shot in Jason Hudson's sports utility vehicle, prosecutors charged.

Balfour tried to cover his tracks, changing his clothes, enlisting friends to create an alibi, and getting rid of the gun and abandoning Jason Hudson's stolen vehicle. After an intensive search, Julian's body was discovered in the vehicle three days later.

Prosecutors relied on circumstantial evidence since they had no DNA or fingerprints directly linking Balfour to the slayings. No one left alive witnessed the killings and the bodies were not discovered for hours.

Jennifer Hudson, who won a Grammy for her debut album and an Academy Award for her role in the movie "Dreamgirls," flew home to identify the bodies and was the first to testify in the trial. She said she had known Balfour since grade school and had never liked him.

One of Balfour's female relatives shook her head angrily as she left the courtroom.

(Reporting By Andrew Stern; Editing by Greg McCune and Bill Trott)

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