Jerry L. Hudson said he loved his ex-wife, but shot her to death in self-defense during a New Year’s Day confrontation outside an Oak Brook hotel.
A DuPage County judge ripped those claims Tuesday as he sentenced Hudson to 60 years in prison for methodically firing six bullets into Melissa Bridgewater after learning she was dating someone.
“They were fired from jealousy, vengeance, anger, hostility, contempt for her and a malignant desire to control her life,” Judge Daniel Guerin said as he imposed what amounts to a life sentence on the 51-year-old Bolingbrook man.
The 45-year-old Bridgewater was gunned down early on Jan. 1, 2010, as she left the hotel after celebrating New Years Eve with a new boyfriend, prosecutors said during his trial.
The prison term, which would keep Hudson behind bars until he is 109 years old, brought a measure of comfort to Bridgewater’s family, who also expressed sympathy for Hudson’s relatives.
“We’re happy with the sentence that was handed down,” said Bridgewater’s sister, Patricia Bridgewater-Farrell. “But at least they get to come visit him in the jail. We have to go to the graveyard.”
Hudson had repeatedly called his ex-wife the night of the slaying, then waited for her in the parking lot until she tried to drive off, authorities said. Hudson rammed her silver Acura with a rental car to stop her, then walked to the driver’s side window and shot Bridgewater six times at close range, striking her three times in her head.
No weapon was found in her car, but Hudson testified during his February trial that she had threatened him during an earlier phone call, then appeared to reach for a gun as he walked up to her vehicle. A jury deliberated for less than two hours before convicting him of first-degree murder.
Bridgewater’s son said he couldn’t accept Hudson’s claims during and after the trial that he still loved Bridgewater, who had divorced him in 2006, though the former spouses still saw each other.
“Love does not cause you to kill; hate kills,” Lavar Bridgewater said. “Mr. Hudson had no respect for my mother and no respect for her decisions.”
Before he was sentenced, Hudson offered a brief apology to Bridgewater’s family and his own relatives. The families have known each other for years – Bridgewater’s siblings attended school with Hudson, who also acted as a stepfather to Bridgewater’s two children.
“I want to apologize to both families,” said Hudson, rising to his feet in a Wheaton courtroom crowded with both sets of relatives. “I loved both sides and I treated both sides like they were family.”
Bridgewater’s relatives said they are pained that Hudson’s family has to deal with his lengthy prison term.
“He was part of us. It’s still rough on all of us,” said Melissa’s brother, Kevin Bridgewater, who hugged Hudson’s daughter outside the courthouse after the hearing ended.
Hudson’s daughter, Shaulia Robinson, said both families are struggling to accept their losses.
“We’re just hurting, we’re just hurting for everybody,” she said.