Skip to main content


Balfour convicted of 3 murders

The jury heard from more than 80 state and two defense witnesses during the nearly three-week trial. Balfour did not take the stand.

Balfour, 31, is convicted of killing Darnell Donerson, 57, Jason Hudson, 29, and Julian King, 7. They were the mother, brother and nephew of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson.

At the time of the murders Balfour was separated from Jennifer Hudson’s older sister, Julia. Cook County state’s attorneys described Balfour as jealous, angry and resentful of his wife. He didn’t like her receiving gifts from family or friends, they said. The estranged husband also suspected Julia of infidelity.

The defense pinned the crimes on violence in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, where the family lived and, according to trial testimony, Jason Hudson dealt drugs.

Sisters Julia and Jennifer had been in the courtroom daily during the trial.

On Oct. 24, 2008, Julia Hudson returned home from work as a school bus driver and found her mother and brother shot to death at 70th and Yale. Her son was missing for a few days, but police found him dead in brother Jason’s stolen SUV on the West Side.

Jennifer Hudson was in Florida at the time her mother and brother were killed. During opening statements the defense said that the trial was not about the superstar. But prosecutors put her on the stand as the first witness. She tearfully recalled how unusual it was not to hear from her mother the morning of the murders.

Jennifer Hudson also said how her family didn’t like Balfour. She said no one wanted Julia to marry him.

Julia Hudson married Balfour in December 2006 without telling her family. The couple separated in early 2007. Julia testified that Balfour told her at least 25 times, “If you leave me, you’ll be the last to die. I’ll kill your family first.” The couple recently divorced. Julia testified that Balfour stole her brother’s .45-caliber gun, which was the weapon used in the murders.

Balfour’s attorneys argued that Cook County prosecutors had little to link him to the grisly crimes. Neither Balfour’s DNA nor fingerprints were on the weapon or inside the stolen SUV. However, gunshot residue was found on Balfour’s own vehicle.

Several witnesses testified that they saw Balfour with the .45-caliber gun. A girlfriend testified that he confessed. Chicago police testified that a key found on Balfour the day of the murders fit in the stolen SUV, but a detective didn’t test that key until September 2011 — nearly three years after the shootings.

Police debunked Balfour’s alibi that he took the CTA to his girlfriend’s place the day of the murders. A CTA investigator testified that Balfour’s bus card wasn’t used on Oct. 24.

Quincy Brown, a friend of Balfour’s in prison on a federal gun conviction, testified about threats. He said Balfour Balfour complained about Julia Hudson cheating on him.

Brown said on the afternoon of the murders Balfour sounded panicked. “I boldly asked him if he did it,” Brown said. He said Balfour told him, “It’s bigger than me.”

Several colorful witnesses from the neighborhood testified that both Jason Hudson and Balfour sold dime bags of crack on the block. One said he bought crack from Balfour the morning of the murders.

Balfour’s lawyers say Jason Hudson moved “weight,” a term for large quantities of drugs, and pointed out his prior gunshot leg injury. They say Chicago police didn’t explore that as a motive for murder in the family’s crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood. They blamed the high-profile nature of the case.

Lonnie Simpson is the half brother of the Hudson siblings. He testified that he and Jason only sold $10 bags of crack out of the home. But another witness said he helped Jason sell crack out of the home on Yale Street. He said customers would knock on the door from 4 p.m.-4 a.m.

Another friend said that Jason had only one enemy: Balfour.

Former neighbor Brittany Acoff Howard testified that Balfour called her the day of the murders. She said he instructed her: “If anybody ask you, I’ve been out west all day.”

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.