Site of infamous murders, childhood home presents a challenge
By Erick Johnson
The deadline for bids has expired. Now, the wait begins for the new owner of a house in Englewood where a triple murder shocked the world and rocked the fairytale rags-to-riches story of superstar Jennifer Hudson.
Vacant and boarded up for 12 years, the question remains about whether the white two-story clapboard at 7019 S. Yale Ave. may soon have a new owner. It’s where Hudson once lived, before she hit it big as a Grammy and Oscar winner.
To fans and interested buyers, the house has potential star appeal and claims to fame. But what happened here more than a decade ago may have some thinking twice about owning a property that became an important part of Hudson’s life.
In 2008, Hudson’s mother and brother were found murdered in the home, while her nephew was found dead on the West Side. While stuffed animals, balloons and candles covered the front gate, three white crosses representing the murders sat for years in the front yard.
Today, the crosses are gone. The overgrown weeds have been cut in the front yard and a sign from the Cook County Land Bank Authority is on the front door. The house is for sale and the minimum asking price from the CCLBA is $20,000.
It’s a potential transaction that may turn some heads in the neighborhoods. With an infamous past, the house is back in the spotlight with a fresh chance for a new future, thanks to the CCLBA, which acquired the property in 2015 through a scavenger sale, according to the CCLBA. The CCLBA paid nothing for the property and the owners received a tax certificate for turning over the vacant property.
According to the CCLBA, the recorder of deeds website shows Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, as the last person who held the title to the house.
On October 24, 2008 Donerson was found shot to death in the house along with Jennifer Hudson’s 29-year-old brother Jason Hudson.
Three days later, Jennifer’s 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in a white SUV on the West Side. Hundreds visited the house to pay their respects. A late-night candlelight vigil was held, and some mourners sang “Spotlight,” one of Jennifer’s hits from her namesake CD that was released earlier that year. The year before the murders, Hudson won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Effie in “Dreamgirls.”
For Hudson, the murders were an overwhelming dose of reality of violence in her hometown.
William Balfour, then 27, was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder and felony home invasion. In 2012, Balfour was convicted on all counts and was sentenced to three life sentences plus 120 years.
Balfour was the former husband of Jennifer’s sister, Julia Hudson. Court documents said the Balfour and Hudson were divorced at the time of the murders but were still seeing each other. Balfour also lived on the same street as the Hudson family. In court, Jennifer said Balfour was her former classmate and that she never wanted to be near him. The family also said they never wanted Julia to marry Balfour. The Hudsons said Balfour threatened to kill Julia if she ever left him.
According to court documents, Balfour visited the Hudson family home on the morning of Oct. 24, 2008. He noticed balloons that Julia’s new boyfriend sent her for Sweetest Day. Balfour got angry, punched the balloons, then waited outside the house.
Moments later, police received a frantic 911 call from Julia after she found her mother’s bloodied body. That recording was replayed in court with Jennifer wiping away tears.
“Oh my God, oh my God,” Julia Hudson is heard yelling at a dispatcher, who tells her to stop screaming because he can’t understand her. “My momma, my momma!”
Earlier during the court proceeding, Jennifer testified that she received a frantic phone call from her sister, and she immediately flew to Chicago to identify her mother and brother’s bodies.
The funeral was held at the Apostolic Church of God in East Woodlawn. Oprah Winfrey, singer Fantasia Barrino, rapper Missy Elliot and actress Queen Latifah were among those in attendance.
The victims were buried at Oak Woods Cemetery. Julian’s small white casket was carried to his final resting place in a horse-drawn carriage covered in red roses and a large teddy bear.
In 2015, Jennifer was reportedly reluctant to star in Spike Lee’s “Chi-raq” because the film reminded her of the murders. Jennifer agreed after being convinced that the movie was a way of bringing attention to the gun violence in her hometown.
Meanwhile, the Hudson house sat vacant and in disrepair for many years. The three white crosses for the victims would nearly be eclipsed by overgrown weeds. A red X was placed above the front door to alert police and fire officials of potential structural hazards when entering the house. In 2013, Julia Hudson told DNA Info that she wanted the house to become a shelter for women. That never happened, and the house fell further into disrepair.
With four bedrooms and one-and-half baths, the CCLBA hopes to find a buyer who is willing to pay a minimum of $20,000. That may be a challenge because of the house’s infamous past and potentially high renovation costs. The CCLBA sells vacant and abandoned properties to buyers who in turn will renovate the property and reuse it again.
According to CCLBA, there have been several applicants for the property, and it will be marketed until an offer is accepted. There are no updated photos of the house on the CCLBA website. Most of the photos are of the front of the house where one remaining cross sits in the front yard.
David Rudd, from the public relations firm Rudd Resources, which represents the CCLBA, said there are no photos of the house’s interior and that the house has not been renovated.
The deadline to bid on the property was June 25. Bidders had to submit an “Initial Application” and an “Offer Application” to be considered. According to its website, the new owner of the property will be awarded the property on July 2 by 5 p.m.