A DuPage County jury on Tuesday rejected Jerry L. Hudson’s claim that he acted in self-defense when he shot his unarmed ex-wife six times.
Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before convicting Hudson of first-degree murder in the deadly shooting that killed 45-year-old Melissa Bridgewater on Jan. 1, 2010.
The rapid guilty verdict satisfied her relatives, who said it showed jurors didn’t believe Hudson’s testimony that he opened fire after Bridgewater threatened him and reached for what he thought was a gun.
“It’s all lies, all lies,” said her sister, Patricia Bridgewater-Farrell. “Ray Charles could have seen through that.”
“It’s a crock,” added Kevin Bridgewater, Melissa’s older brother.
Hudson, now 51, faces at least 45 years in prison when he is sentenced. The Bolingbrook man sat calmly as the seven-man, five-woman jury convicted him.
Hudson admitted gunning down Bridgewater as she sat in her car outside an Oak Brook hotel, but told jurors he fired because he thought she was grabbing for a gun as they argued. She had threatened him in a phone call an hour before the shooting at 6:20 a.m., Hudson testified.
Prosecutors ripped those claims, contending an enraged Hudson coolly ambushed his former wife as she left the hotel after celebrating New Year’s Eve with a new boyfriend.
No gun was found in her silver Acura.
“This was a cold-blooded execution. The jury’s swift verdict reflected that,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said.
Hudson at the time of the shooting thought he was acting in self-defense, defense attorney John Lyke Jr. argued before jurors began deliberating, though he acknowledged it was an “imperfect” claim not supported by the evidence.
“His belief at that time was unreasonable,” Lyke said as he asked jurors to convict Hudson of a lesser offense, second-degree murder.
A letter written three days before the shooting clearly showed Hudson wanted his former wife dead, prosecutors argued. Hudson wrote that Bridgewater “stole my manhood, so I’m taking her with me,” Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Cronin said, quoting the letter.
“He meant to kill her when he shot her. He didn’t believe it was self-defense when he was doing it,” Cronin said.