Jared Bridegan, a former Microsoft executive and father of four, was gunned down in Florida last year in front of his infant daughter. The hitman responsible for Bridegan’s murder not only pleaded guilty Thursday, but also turned on his alleged co-conspirator.
Officials indicated that immediately after the hitman entered his guilty plea, a judge signed the arrest warrant for Mario Fernandez Saldana, the new husband of Bridegan’s ex-wife. Saldana was taken into custody around 9:35 a.m. without incident.
What’s the background?
Bridegan, 33, was gunned down on Feb. 16, 2022, in the area of Jacksonville Drive and Sanctuary Boulevard in front of his 2-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the back seat of his car, reported the Florida Times-Union. He had just dropped off his 9-year-old twins at his ex-wife’s residence.
Responding to a call around 8 p.m., officers found Bridegan’s body in a wooded area near the road but his daughter unharmed. Handgun shell casings were found at the scene as well as a damaged tire. The victim was reportedly shot at close range.
According to officials, a tire had purposefully been set on the road blocking the way. When Bridegan exited his vehicle to move the tire, police say “he was gunned down in cold blood.”
Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith said, “This was a planned and target[ed] ambush and murder.”
In late January 2023, Smith announced that 61-year-old felon Henry Arthur Tenon had been charged in connection with Bridegan’s slaying. Tenon was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree murder with a weapon, accessory after the fact to capital felony, and child abuse.
The Times-Union indicated that Tenon was a career criminal with a felonious record in Georgia and nine arrests in Jacksonville.
At the time of Tenon’s arrest, State Attorney Melissa Nelson noted that “Henry Tenon did not act alone.”
There was a great deal of speculation about possible motives and accomplices, especially since Bridegan and his ex, 35-year-old Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, had a long and bitter divorce.
Gardner-Fernandez recently hired a defense attorney to deal with media pressure and accusations that she or her new husband, Mario Fernandez Saldana, might have had something to do with Bridegan’s grisly demise.
Gardner-Fernandez told the Times-Union, “I feel for Jared’s family and what they are going through. I can’t even imagine.”
The victim, who had similarly remarried, was survived by widow Kirsten Bridegan, with whom he had two children.
Kirsten has pushed ardently for clues as to who might have wanted her husband dead and why, noting, “He was a dedicated father. He did everything for his children, and he cannot be replaced. They will never have their dad back. I want answers.”
Chief Smith announced on Thursday that Mario Fernandez Saldana had been arrested in connection with Bridegan’s murder.
WTLV-TV previously established that the accused hitman had rented a property from Saldana.
“I was not surprised that there was a connection. It’s tragic, my immediate thoughts were for Liam and Abigail and what they are going through right now because of what that could implicate, but I was not surprised with that connection being made,” Kirsten Bridegan said upon learning of the link.
ATF Special Agent Robert Bryson told reporters Thursday that Saldana was arrested around 9:35 a.m. without incident and transported to the Orange County jail.
State Attorney Nelson indicated that as part of Tenon’s plea agreement with the State of Florida, “he has agreed to testify truthfully against those he worked with to murder Jared Bridegan. … Tenon’s cooperation has both corroborated evidence collected during the investigation and provided additional evidence against Mario Fernandez Saldana for his role in the planning and execution of Jared’s murder.”
ABC News reported that phone records showed Tenon and Saldana had 35 “phone contacts” in February 2022, the month Bridegan was murdered. The hitman and the disgruntled ex-wife’s husband interacted by phone on multiple other occasions between March and June, according Saldana’s arrest warrant.
A grand jury has indicted Saldana with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit a capital felony, and child abuse.
Nelson noted that if found guilty of first-degree murder, Saldana faces the death penalty or life imprisonment.
After Thursday’s press briefing, Kirsten Bridegan said, “We have great relief knowing that two of the people behind my husband’s murder are behind bars and are no longer a threat to our family. … We are also still angry — angry that they were walking free while we were grappling with the reality that Jared wouldn’t be here for any future memories, vacations or tender moments with our kids.”
Kirsten Bridegan added, “We have fought hard for the truth and the world now knows what we have known all along; that Jared truly was an innocent victim. … Since day one, those in charge of the investigation promised us that they would be relentless in their pursuit of justice and they have been.”
Bridegan’s ex-wife, Shanna, has not been arrested. Police have yet to note whether they intend to make additional arrests.
Watch | Officials to announce major development in Jared Bridegan’s murderyoutu.be
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