How Jennifer Hudson Forgave The Man Who Murdered Her Family

Jennifer-Hudson-American-Idol-The-Voice-William-Balfour-Jennifer-Hudson-Family-MurderedSamantha Agate | Talent Recap

Jennifer Hudson first rose to fame on American Idol in 2004. The powerhouse vocalist from Chicago had previously sung on cruise lines. Auditioning for the show changed her life forever and she was well on her way to fame even after her elimination. In 2008, Jennifer suffered a devastating loss after her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew were murdered.

Jennifer Hudson’s Family Was Murdered In 2008 After ‘American Idol’ Success

Jennifer’s mother Darnell Donerson and her brother were found shot dead in their Chicago home on October 24, 2008. Her nephew  Julian King was missing from the home. His body was found three days later shot dead in the back seat of an SUV.

Jennifer’s brother-in-law William Balfour was taken into custody for the murders. He was separated from his wife, Julia Hudson at the time of the murders. Jennifer’s mother had thrown him out of their home a year prior. He was already on parole for an attempted murder conviction in 1992. Prosecutors believe that an argument ensued between the estranged couple leading up to the murders. He had previously made threats to kill the Hudson family.


“None of us wanted her to marry him [Balfour],” Jennifer told the jury during the trial, “We did not like how he treated her.” Brittany Acoff-Howard, Balfour’s former girlfriend said that he tried to use her as an alibi on the day that the shooting occurred. He was found guilty of murdering all three family members and sentenced to life without parole.

“We have felt the love and support from people all over the world and we’re very grateful,” Jennifer and Julia said in a statement. “We want to extend a prayer from the Hudson family to the Balfour family. We have all suffered a terrible loss in this tragedy.” To this day, Balfour still maintains his innocence.

How Jennifer Was Able To Pick Up The Pieces, Forgive And Move On

Jennifer stepped away from the spotlight she gained from American Idol for a little while to cope with the deaths in her family. She previously received critical acclaim for her Oscar-winning role in the movie Dreamgirls. Jennifer finally came back to the spotlight making award show and talk show appearances. She went on to release her album I Remember Me, in 2011.

The singer opened up to Glamour in 2015 about all of the tragedies she experienced in her life. The birth of her son David with her former fiance David Otunga in 2009 helped her get through some of the most difficult moments she faced. “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,” she says. “I tell David [now six] all the time, ‘You saved my life.'” 

In 2017, Jennifer accused Otunga of pushing her while holding their son. She filed but later dropped an emergency order of protection. According to court documents, Otunga also accused Hudson of having an affair. While Jennifer was traveling for The Voice in both the UK and Los Angeles, Otunga was awarded primary physical custody in Chicago. After years of fighting in court, they were finally able to reach a custody agreement.


Since her American Idol days, Jennifer has put out three studio albums, won a plethora of awards and shown that she is a fierce working mom. She was the first female coach to win The Voice UK with artist Mo Adeniran and always continues to slay each and every performance she gives.


Samantha Agate
Samantha Agate

Samantha Agate is a contributor and host for Talent Recap on YouTube with a previous byline at The Blast. She graduated from Hunter College in 2019 with a degree in Media Studies and a Concentration in Journalism. When she isn't binge-watching reality television shows or binge-eating fried food, she loves hanging out with her friends and family and petting puppies.

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