Jennifer Hudson's son 'saved her life' as she battled grief after family murders

Lottie O'Neill September 21, 2022
Jennifer Hudson's son 'saved her life' as she battled grief after family murders


Jennifer Hudson’s son David ‘saved her life’ as she tried to cope with the grief over losing her brother, mother and young nephew in tragic family murders.

Superstar Jennifer Hudson’s sibling, mom and seven-year-old nephew were murdered in a horrific turn of events in Chicago 14 years ago.

The singer rarely approached the subject. However, she spoke about the tragedy to Oprah Winfrey, and years later, opened up to Glamour magazine in 2015.

In 2012, Hudson’s ex brother-in-law, William Balfour, was convicted of first-degree murder of her three family members. He was sentenced to life in prison over the killings.

Despite the devastating loss she and her family endured, Jennifer Hudson said it was her son David who ‘saved her life’.

Jennifer Hudson’s tragic family murders

Photo by Cook County Sheriff’s Department via WireImage

In 2008, William Balfour shot and killed Jennifer Hudson’s three family members, reports ABC.

Balfour, the husband of Hudson’s sister Julia, moved out of the family home in May, writes the Chicago Tribune. On October 24, neighbors heard gunshots outside the home in the morning at around 7am. However, the body of Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, was not found for several hours – until around 3pm in the afternoon.

Hudson’s brother Jason, 29, was found in a bedroom, but there was no sign of young Julian – Julia’s son. Tragically, three days later, the boy’s body was found in the back of Jason’s car.

The BBC reports prosecutors told the jury Balfour shot the victims after his estranged wife refused to reconcile with him.

When the guilty verdict was read out in court, Hudson – who had attended the trial every day – was overcome with emotion.

Her son helped ‘save her life’

Just one year later, the singer gave birth to her son David, who she shares with fiancé David Otunga.

Three years after Balfour was sentenced to life behind bars, Hudson said it was “frustrating” when people try to talk about it when they haven’t had a similar experience.

“It’s frustrating as hell to me to have somebody who ain’t lost nothing try to talk to me about it,” the 2004 American Idol singer told Glamour.

“I want to say, ‘Don’t even bother, because you know nothing’. But you never know how much you can get through until you’re going through it.”

The Oscar-winning star later explained: “I went from being an aunt, having a mom, and being a child to not having a mom, becoming a mom, and raising my own child.

“I tell David all the time, ‘You saved my life.'”

Hudson opens up to Oprah over the tragedies

Screenshot from How the Murders Affected Jennifer Hudson | Oprah’s Next Chapter | Oprah Winfrey Network YouTube channel

Hudson told Oprah Winfrey there were so many “shocking” parts to the incident that it made it harder to grieve. The star explained losing three family members made it “too much” to handle. It became that she didn’t know who to “grieve first”.

The Dreamgirls actor also hadn’t visited the grave site for the first four years following their deaths. She explained to the host she only felt she “deserved” visiting her family’s graves to pay respects once she had seen “justice” for the killings.

Following the tragedies, in the 2012 interview, Hudson also said she had forgiven her brother-in-law Balfour.

Oprah asked her: “Have you forgiven him?”

Which Hudson responded: “Yes, because I feel like for the most part it’s not his fault. Like, it’s what he was taught, how he was brought up.

“‘We tried to offer love, but you were so far gone you couldn’t even see that.’ A lot of things came out that we didn’t even know about, from his upbringing. He never had a chance.”

Balfour claimed it was a ‘conspiracy’

Balfour had denied the killings, with his lawyer claiming they were going to appeal the verdict afterwards.

In 2016, in an interview after being convicted, he told ABC7 I-Team he had “nothing to do with the case”.

Balfour claimed to the reporter he didn’t have a gun on the day of the killings. He claimed he didn’t threaten his estranged wife.

He added he wasn’t sure who committed the murders: “I don’t know. I can sit here and speculate the many names and just throw them out there to you, it still wouldn’t solve it, period.”

After the interview, Chicago Police said they “firmly stand behind” the case which was “based exclusively on facts and evidence”.

Cook County State’s Attorney spokesperson told ABC: “This defendant was convicted of these heinous crimes, including the vicious murder of a 7-year-old child, after a lengthy trial before a Cook County Jury. He was afforded every legal right and provided the opportunity to present any relevant defense. The evidence establishing this defendant’s guilt of these unspeakable crimes was overwhelming.”

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Lottie is the Head of Audience for Entertainment and Gaming, working with the teams on HITC, Reality Titbit, The Focus and Freshered. She is passionate about news being accessible to everyone, and focuses on bringing audiences quality content that they enjoy. She loves the art of storytelling, whether that be news, movies or heavy hardback fiction.