JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Nearly a year after a father of four was gunned down in what police believe was a targeted ambush shooting in Jacksonville Beach, police and the state attorney’s office announced an arrest in the case Wednesday.
Henry Tenon, 61, has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree murder with a weapon, accessory after the fact to a capital felony and felony child abuse — all directly related to the murder of Bridegan, Jacksonville Beach Police Department Chief Gene Paul Smith said during a Wednesday news conference.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson said the child abuse charge stems from the fact Bridegan’s 2½-year-old daughter was in the backseat of his sport utility vehicle “directly in harm’s way when her father was killed in front of her.” The child was not injured.
Nelson said the conspiracy charge is also significant.
“We know Henry Tenon did not act alone,” she said.
The I-TEAM has uncovered records confirming that Tenon lived in a home owned by Mario Fernandez, who was the second husband of Bridegan’s ex-wife.
Tenon has been in jail since August. He was arrested after a traffic stop on Edgewood Avenue North. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office found a shotgun and a small baggie of marijuana in the car. He was initially charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and misdemeanor possession of marijuana, but those charges were later dropped. He pleaded guilty to felony driving with a suspended license and is awaiting sentencing. His bond was revoked Jan. 10, and his next court hearing is Jan. 31.
Court records show a history of other arrests for domestic battery (to which he pleaded no contest) and a hit-and-run crash.
Nelson said they have requested that Tenon’s arrest warrant and affidavit on the Bridegan charges be sealed for 30 days because of the ongoing investigation.
And her office will be seeking a first-degree murder indictment against Tenon from a grand jury.
News4JAX reported Tuesday night that an arrest was imminent after the I-TEAM received information from three different law enforcement sources.
The Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office have worked the case since the beginning on the night of Feb. 16 when someone shot and killed the Microsoft manager on a dark stretch near the Sanctuary neighborhood.
According to detectives, Bridegan, 33, was shot at close range several times after he stopped to move a tire out of the road. That tire, investigators believe, was part of the setup.
“This was a planned and targeted ambush and murder,” Smith said during Wednesday’s news conference.”
Bridegan’s wife, Kirsten, has been vocal to the I-TEAM about her family’s pain, begging for someone to come forward with answers to help police solve the case.
“I rack my brain. I stay up all night long thinking, ‘Why? Was there any hint this was coming?’ There was none,” Kirsten Bridegan said in March.
She was standing side by side with investigators at Wednesday’s news conference but did not comment.
Jared Bridegan had just left the home of his ex-wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, the night of the ambush. He dropped off the twins he shared with her, and then the attack occurred just miles away as he headed to his home in St. Johns County.
There’s been a lot of public interest in Gardner-Fernandez and her second husband, Mario. She has proclaimed her innocence in interviews with other outlets.
According to sources, Gardner-Fernandez moved with her children across the country to Benton County, Washington, where her family has a home.
A report from Fox News states she was spotted there Monday—hours before News4JAX reported on the major development. She had no comment.
All the while, investigators have been asking for information about a dark blue older 2004 to 2008 Ford F-150 pickup truck, which they believe was involved in the murder.
Police have said many times solving the case is a top priority.
“Due to hundreds of tips that we received from citizens coming in, the detectives have to follow up on each and every tip that comes in,” JBPD Sgt. Tonya Tator said in August.
Memories of Jared Bridegan with his children motivate his family in their search for justice.
“I know that if he was here and I wasn’t, he would be fighting for me — also the kids,” Kirsten Bridegan said in August. “I want all four of the kids to know why they don’t have their dad because he was the best dad.
There is a $55,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution in the killing. First Coast Crime Stoppers is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Much of that money was raised privately by the Bridegan family. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, is offering an additional $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
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