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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Julia Hudsons' Mother and Brother Murdered in their Chicago Home

The mother and brother of Oscar-winning actress and chart-topping singer Jennifer Hudson has been found shot dead at the family's Chicago home, according to Hudson 's publicist and authorities.

A Chicago police department spokesman said the murders appeared to be the related to a domestic incident, but would not identify the victims.

Hudson 's personal publicist Lisa Kasteler confirmed that the victims were Hudson 's 57-year-old mother, Darnell Donnerson, and her brother 29-year-old brother Jason Hudson.

Donnerson suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Hudson was shot in the chest, according to the Cook County Examiner's Office.

There were no signs of forced entry to the home, according to Joseph Patterson, deputy chief of patrol of the Chicago Police.

Neighbors reported hearing gunshots at Donnerson's home in the gritty Englewood neighborhood on the city's South Side between 8:00 or 9:00 am (1300 GMT) on Friday, but no one raised the alarm until around 3:00 pm (2000 GMT), authorities said.

It was Julia Hudson who made the gruesome discovery after returning home from her day shift at a bus company. The older sister of Jennifer Hudson summoned the police and also reportedly told them that her seven-year-old son was missing.

Authorities immediately issued an all points bulletin for the missing boy, Julian King.

Police said the missing youngster might have been abducted from the home and could be in the company of William Balfour, a suspect in the double homicide, who should be considered armed and dangerous.

The bulletin said Balfour, 27, could be driving a white Chevrolet Suburban truck. The truck was registered to Jason Hudson, the slain brother of the singer, records showed.

Neighbours and news reports identified Balfour as Julia Hudson's estranged husband and the step-father of her son.

On his MySpace page, Balfour described himself as a "proud parent" and played up his links to Jennifer Hudson.

"I might as well let you all know that Jennifer Hudson is my wife's sister. I'm proud of her and wish her nothing but the best in what she do. But don't hit me up asking 'bout her, other than that it's on!" he wrote.

A slide show on the same site featured family snaps of Jennifer alongside shots of a bare-chested Balfour flexing his muscles for the camera.

Balfour is currently on parole after serving six and a half years for attempted murder, according to TMZ's website. He also has a conviction for possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

At one time he listed Donnerson's home as one of his previous addresses.

The ex-con was taken into custody by police late on Friday, according to the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Balfour was not co-operating with investigators and was not disclosing the whereabouts of the seven-year-old boy, FOX News reported. Chicago police would not confirm these reports.

Jennifer Hudson was reported to be flying home to Chicago from Tampa , Florida.

The 27-year-old singer shot to nationwide fame on American Idol, the wildly popular television talent show.

In 2007, she earned an Oscar for supporting actress for her turn in "Dreamgirls," alongside Beyonce, and Jamie Foxx.

Her debut album came out September 30 and she is currently riding high in the charts with a number one single on the Billboard R&B charts, called 'Spotlight'. In recent weeks she has been promoting her latest film project, "The Secret Life of Bees."

In interviews, Hudson credited her mother with helping her launch her career by pushing her to apply to American Idol, and said her siblings kept her rooted and down to earth.

Julia Hudson's MySpace page testified to the same deep affection for her mother. In response to a pop quiz asking who she most admired, Julia had written: "MY MOM, WHAT A WOMAN!"

In response to another question, asking who of her closest confidantes was most likely to get arrested, she had written: "WILLIAM."


For Jennifer Hudson, two life themes appear again and again: her love of music and love of family.

"One reason my dreams have been able to come true is because of the people in my life," she said at a ceremony at the United Nations last year. "They've always believed in me, and had hope for me, and loved me."

The tragedy comes at a time of personal triumph for Hudson, still riding the wave of recognition that came with her best supporting actress Oscar in 2007 for her role in "Dreamgirls."

Hudson's single "Spotlight" is No. 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs, after 23 weeks on the chart. Her first, self-titled album debuted four weeks ago and has held the No. 2 spot ever since on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album currently ranks fifth overall on the Billboard 200.

Last month, Hudson's boyfriend David "Punk" Otunga (also a Chicago native and reality TV personality) proposed to the singer/actress on her 27th birthday. Hudson said, "Yes."

In her newest movie, " The Secret Life of Bees," released last week, Hudson plays the motherly figure to a young white girl ( Dakota Fanning) during the 1960s in racially charged South Carolina.

"It was fun to go back to my mother's time," she recently told PlanetOut.com. "Like, 'Wow, is this what my mom looked like? Is this the type of clothing she wore? Was this her style?' Especially in that scene with the bob haircut? That was so my mother."

It was Hudson's mother, Darnell Hudson Donerson, who encouraged her daughter to pursue a singing career.

"My mum tells this story of when I was a baby in church," Hudson told Australia's Sunday Telegraph Magazine last month. "They were teaching the choir a note, and they couldn't hit it. I was just 8 months old, but I hit the note. Apparently, my godmother looked over to my mother and said, 'Mark my words, this child is going to sing.' "

The youngest of three, including sister Julia and brother Jason, Hudson grew up in Englewood, on the South Side. Her father, bus driver Samuel Samson, died when Hudson was in her teens.

Hudson graduated from Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. She has ties to both the Progressive Baptist Church, near U.S. Cellular Field, and Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church. Up until a few years ago, Hudson still lived with her mother. As of 2003, Hudson's singing experience was limited to the church choir, a stint performing on a Disney cruise ship and a 2001 production of "Big River" at Lincolnshire's Marriott Theatre.

Still, Donerson encouraged her daughter to fly to Atlanta and audition for the third season of "American Idol."

She made it. In 2004, after a vigorous competition, Hudson was voted off the show in seventh place. Judge Simon Cowell was particularly cruel to her, telling her she was "out of her league" and her outfit resembled "something you should wrap a turkey in."

Hudson's resilience won out when director Bill Condon hired her for the role of Effie White in "Dreamgirls," a musical riff inspired by the career of The Supremes. Perhaps in a bit of poetic justice, Hudson beat out 781 others who auditioned for the role including, reportedly, 2004 "Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino.

Hudson has been careful not to complain about her "Idol" history and instead remained grateful for the experience.

Hudson told the Tribune she believes in God's overall plan for her. "It wasn't a big deal for her because one of her dreams had already come true," Hudson's older sister, Julia, told the Tribune in 2007. "All she wanted was for the world to hear her singing."

Hudson won both a Golden Globe and Academy Award for the performance—her first ever on film.

"She's the same Jennifer," Julia Hudson told the Tribune after her sister's Oscar win. "She wants to stop and talk to every fan she can and come home [to Chicago] every time she can."

She went on to positive reviews in "Sex in the City: The Movie" and continued to credit her success to the support of her family. Hudson visited Chicago last week when she was honored at the 44th Chicago International Film Festival's Black Perspective Tribute alongside Sidney Poitier.

"Family is everything. My family is definitely what keeps me grounded," she told the Sunday Telegraph in September. "They keep things in perspective and balanced. When I'm in Chicago, my life is normal. I have to get up and make my own breakfast, and I'm told the truth. I'm very normal—it's my career that's not."

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