Jennifer Hudson Testifies Emotionally at Trial of Mother’s Alleged Murderer

The Oscar-winning actress and singer was the first to take the stand against William Balfour, accused of killing three members of her family.

  • Share
  • Read Later

In this courtroom sketch, singer and actress Jennifer Hudson testifies at the murder trial of William Balfour, charged in the October 2008 killings of her mother, brother and nephew.

Jennifer Hudson told a jury that she warned her sister against marrying the man who is accused in the gruesome murder of three members of the actress and singer’s family.

“I would tell Julia over and over again not to marry William,” Hudson said, after breaking down in tears upon being shown a picture of her mother.  “None of us myself, my mother, or my brother, we did not like how he treated her and I didn’t like how he treated my nephew.”

The testimony is the first in the trial of William Balfour, who faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the 2008 killings of Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57; her brother Jason, 29;  and nephew Julian King, 7, who was found dead after a three-day search. Balfour has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first degree murder. He is the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister, Julia.

(MORE: Jury Chosen for Hudson Family Slay Trial)

Prosecutors say Balfour, who left the family home in Southside Chicago months before the killings, became angry that his wife had begun seeing someone else. Believing some balloons he saw at the house were a gift from Julia’s new boyfriend, Balfour, in a jealous rage, went into the home and shot Donerson, then Jason as he slept, and finally took the boy, Julian, in Jason’s SUV and killed him in the back seat. The boy’s body was found in the abandoned vehicle several miles away.

Balfour, already a convicted felon who was on parole, has claimed that he was not near the home at the time of the killings. There are no actual witnesses and defense attorneys say gunshot residue found on the steering wheel of his car, among other evidence, is circumstantial.

(MORE: A Dreamgirl’s Nightmare.)

Hudson, a gold-selling R&B singer and American Idol finalist, won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in 2006’s Dreamgirls. Discussing her experiences immediately following the murders, she said she flew back to Chicago first to identify her mother and brother in a morgue, then offered $100,000 to locate her nephew. “We were trying everything, anything we could do to get him back.”

She also pointed Balfour out in the courtroom and explained to the jury that she did not have a cordial relationship with him. “I tried to keep my distance with William any chance I got.”