Oscar-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson helped positively identify the body of her young nephew yesterday, hours after he was found with gunshot wounds in a sport-utility vehicle on Chicago's West Side, authorities said.
An autopsy was scheduled to be done on the body of 7-year-old Julian King today at the Cook County medical examiner's office, where Hudson and other relatives went to help identify the remains yesterday afternoon.
A law enforcement source told the Chicago Tribune that the boy had been shot multiple times in the back of the white Chevrolet Suburban. The vehicle had been the subject of an intense search and Amber Alert issued on Friday after Hudson's mother and brother were found shot and killed inside the family's South Side home.
Chicago police took Julian's body to the medical examiner's office shortly after noon, and Hudson and other family members arrived about three hours later, said office spokesman Sean Howard.
When the group entered a viewing room at the office, Hudson held her head down, as if praying, he said. The family then identified Julian via a video screen mounted on a wall that showed his face. The family chose the video screen option rather than looking directly at the body, Howard said.
The family was "obviously distraught," but Howard said Hudson "remained strong for her family. It was very clear she was the leader."
Police found the bodies of Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, and brother, Jason Hudson, on Friday afternoon after a family member came to their home and saw signs of violence inside. The murders sparked a manhunt for William Balfour, 27, and a search for Julian.
Police were called shortly after 7 a.m. Monday after a resident reported a suspicious vehicle in the 1300 block of South Kolin Ave. The white Suburban was noticed by John Louden, 75, who lives on the block. He saw the SUV while walking his dog. After a double-take, he realized the license plate matched the one police were looking for.
"I didn't look in there. I didn't touch it. I knew it was a strange vehicle," Louden said. He said police showed up in about five minutes after his wife called them. They discovered the child inside. The body was removed, and the SUV was towed away for evidence processing. "I feel bad about that baby," Louden said.
Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis said the investigation into the murders was continuing and declined to release details about what police believe might have been the motive. "There's a lot of work to be done; we'll make sure to go through this very thoroughly," he said.
Before the identification, Hudson's family members and supporters were already preparing for the hard news - that this was the third member of her family killed since Friday.
"It's shocking. It's unreal. We had been praying that it would not come to this," said the Rev. Krista Alston, a cousin of Hudson's and a minister at the Pleasant Gift Baptist Church in Chicago. "We know it's a reality now, but it's still shocking."
Balfour, the estranged husband of the boy's mother, Julia Hudson, was brought in for questioning Friday night. He was initially described by police as a suspect in the investigation.
The boy remained missing through a weekend in which police and volunteers posted fliers around the city with pictures of the boy. On Sunday, his actress aunt - grieving and rushing to Chicago from Florida where she was promoting a film - offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who found the boy.
Police searched Balfour's girlfriend's house Friday night after taking Balfour into custody.