Killer of three in Jennifer Hudson's family gets life

CHICAGO Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:33am IST

William Balfour is pictured in this recent handout photo from the Cook County Sheriff Department, received by Reuters April 23, 2012. REUTERS/Cook County Sheriff Department/Handout

William Balfour is pictured in this recent handout photo from the Cook County Sheriff Department, received by Reuters April 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Cook County Sheriff Department/Handout

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The man convicted of murdering Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and young nephew was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday, with the judge in the case deriding him as a man with "the heart of an arctic night."

William Balfour had been convicted in May of breaking into the Hudson family home and fatally shooting Hudson's mother Darnell Donerson, 57, her brother Jason Hudson, 29, and her 7-year-old nephew Julian King.

Cook County Judge Charles Patrick Burns sentenced Balfour to three consecutive life terms with no opportunity for parole, plus 120 years for aggravated kidnapping and home invasion.

Prior to announcing his sentence, Burns told Balfour: "You have the heart of an arctic night. Your soul is as barren as dark space."

Hudson, wearing a tan pantsuit with a black jacket and high heels, wiped her eyes frequently during the sentencing hearing. Hudson, who won an Academy Award for her role in the movie "Dreamgirls" and a Grammy for her debut album, left the court without making a statement.

Balfour's motive was jealousy of his estranged wife Julia Hudson, Jennifer's sister, whom he threatened numerous times, saying he would kill her after he killed her family, according to witnesses at the 11-day trial that ended with his conviction on May 11.

Gregory King, father of Hudson's murdered 7-year-old nephew Julian, spoke to the court before the sentencing.

When King learned that his son had been killed, "Instantly it was like a chunk of my heart was ripped out," he said. "I felt hopeless. I was filled with rage for William Balfour, the man who murdered my son."

Hudson was the first witness in Balfour's trial. She said she had known him since grade school and had never liked him.

Speaking before the sentence was rendered, Balfour offered "my condolences" to the victim's family and his prayers to Julian King. "I still do love him," he said. He also repeated his claim of innocence.

Burns dismissed Balfour's expression of love for Hudson's nephew. "To tell us in open court that you loved that child is an insult to all of us," Burns said.

Balfour's attorneys said they planned to appeal the sentence.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Jackie Frank and Philip Barbara)