The husband of Jared Bridegan’s ex-wife could be sentenced to death in the slain Microsoft executive’s brazen 2022 murder, Florida prosecutors announced on Wednesday.
In a pretrial hearing in Duval County Court, prosecutors announced their intent to seek the death penalty against Mario Fernandez Saldana, who is facing several charges, including first-degree murder, in connection with Bridegan’s February 2022 slaying. The father of four was fatally shot as he tried to move a tire in the middle of a quiet residential Florida road while his daughter was still in the car.
“The announcement today is another significant step toward justice,” Bridegan’s widow, Kirsten, said in a statement, adding that the news “signifies determination and the relentless pursuit of justice for Jared, our family, and the community.”
“We aren’t backing down to those involved in the heinous, cold-blooded murder of my husband in front of our daughter,” she added.
Prosecutors allege that Fernandez Saldana, 35, enlisted the help of his handyman and tenant, Henry Tenon, in the grisly slaying. In March, Tenon pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and admitted that he shot Bridegan in the middle of the road. Fernandez Saldana had pleaded not guilty.
“The capital felony was committed for pecuniary gain,” prosecutor Christina Stifler said during Wednesday’s hearing, during which she listed the aggravating circumstances to justify the decision to seek the death penalty. “The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”
Fernandez Saldana’s defense lawyer, Jesse Dreicer, responded that his team reserves the right to challenge the decision to seek capital punishment in the case, which has garnered national attention. Dreicer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors say that on Feb. 16, 2022, Bridegan was returning to his St. Augustine home after dropping off his twins at the home of his ex-wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, when he saw a tire in the middle of the road. With his 2-year-old daughter in the car, Bridegan was fatally shot multiple times as he tried to move the obstacle. The toddler, who was unharmed in the attack, was still in her carseat when a resident drove by minutes later.
While it is still not immediately clear why Gardner-Fernandez’s second husband conspired to murder Bridegan, prosecutors allege that the plan began about six weeks prior to the slaying.
Public records obtained by The Daily Beast showed that Tenon, 61, lived at a Jacksonville home owned by Fernandez Saldana until last October. He also reportedly worked as a handyman for several of Fernandez Saldana’s rental properties.
As previously reported, Bridegan’s death came after a complicated marriage—and an even more contentious divorce—from Gardner-Fernandez. Since their 2015 split, Bridegan and Gardner-Fernandez had continuously fought in court over custody of their twins.
A spokesperson for Gardner-Fernandez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Despite the ongoing battle with his ex-wife, Bridegan had figured out a schedule to ensure that he could see his son and daughter, his wife previously told The Daily Beast. As part of the custody agreement, Kirsten Bridegan said she and her husband would see the 10-year-old twins for “date night” that consisted of dinner and a quick activity… It was after one of those “date nights” that Bridegan was fatally shot.
“I take comfort knowing Abby and Liam are no longer living with Mario and I hope all evil surrounding them and our family will be removed in due time,” Kirsten Bridegan said on Wednesday.
“Jared is loved and missed more than words can express and we deeply feel his loss. While we know he is gone, we take comfort in knowing the prosecution team and law enforcement remain unrelenting in their efforts and are committed to holding everyone involved in Jared’s murder accountable.”