A DuPage County jury Tuesday quickly rejected a Bolingbrookman’s claim of self-defense and found him guilty of murdering his ex-wife in an Oak Brook hotel parking lot.
The jury needed about 90 minutes to convict Jerry Hudson of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Melissa Bridgewater of Bolingbrook, who was slain on Jan. 1, 2010.
Bridgewater, 45, was shot six times at close range about 6:20 a.m. as she was leaving the Double Tree Hotel in Oak Brook. She had spent the night there with her boyfriend, celebrating New Year’s.
Hudson, 51, admitted the shooting, but said he drew a pistol and fired into Bridgewater’s car when he saw her pick up a shiny object that he thought was gun.
“That just wasn’t credible at all,” State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said after the verdict. “It’s hard to argue self-defense when you shoot someone six times, including three in the back. It’s a tough sell.”
Kevin Bridgewater, the victim’s brother, offered a blunter assessment of Hudson’s self-defense claim.
“It’s a crock of crap,” he said afterward.
Hudson and Bridgewater had been divorced for several years, but still dated. Prosecutors argued that Hudson planned the killing when he discovered Bridgewater had a new man in her life. After the shooting, police found a note in Hudson’s home in which he had written, “Melissa took my manhood and I’m going to take her with me.”
He had also rented a car, which he used to run into Bridgewater’s car as she tried to back out of a parking space at the Double Tree. He then approached the car and opened fire, prosecutors said.
Hudson testified Friday that he had never fired a gun before that night and had closed his eyes as he pulled the trigger.
“Is that believable?” Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Cronin asked jurors in Tuesday’s closing arguments. “Never fired a gun before, six shots, six hits. Really? Really?”
Following the shooting, Hudson said, he threw the pistol in a canal and left his car on a Chicago street before turning himself in several days later.
Attorney John Lyke said Hudson’s actions amounted to the lesser crime of second-degree murder.
“He’s not trying to walk out of here without responsibility or accountability,” Lyke told jurors.
Jurors had the option of entering a second-degree murder conviction, which would have carried a shorter sentence than the 45-year minimum Hudson now faces.
Patricia Bridgewater-Farrell, the victim’s sister, said she had known Hudson since high school, and that the Hudson and Bridgewater families had been friendly.
“There are two families that are now divided because of his selfishness,” she said.
Judge Daniel Guerin will hold a hearing in March to set a sentencing date.