18 August 2023
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The ex-wife of a Microsoft executive who was gunned down by a triggerman in front of his young daughter has been charged with first-degree murder, and prosecutors in Florida plan to seek the death penalty.
A grand jury indicted Shanna Lee Gardner in the ambush-style death of Jared Bridegan, State Attorney Melissa Nelson announced Thursday at a news conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Gardner, 36, was arrested in West Richland, Washington, and will be extradited to Florida to stand trial, Nelson said.
“From very, very early on, everything in my body and soul told me she was behind it,” Kristen Bridegan, Jared Bridegan’s wife, said during the news conference.
Hank Coxe, who represents Gardner, said via email that he he does not comment on pending cases.
The state is also seeking the death penalty against Gardner’s husband, Mario Fernandez Saldana, who was arrested in March and charged in Bridegan’s death. His attorney, Jesse Dreicer, has previously commented little and did not immediately respond to an email Friday seeking reaction.
He was arrested after triggerman Henry Arthur Tenon, 62, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, court records show. He agreed to testify against Fernandez Saldana and Gardner, Nelson said.
Nelson did not say what led to Gardner’s arrest or mention a motive.
“Henry Tenon did not act alone. Mario Fernandez did not plan alone. And Shanna Gardner’s indictment acknowledges her central and key role in the cold, calculated and premeditated murder of Jared Bridegan,” Nelson said.
Bridegan, a father of four and a software developer for Microsoft, was ambushed on Feb. 16, 2022, as he was leaving a Jacksonville Beach neighborhood after dropping off twin children he shared with Gardner and returning to his home in nearby St. Augustine.
Police said that there was a tire in the dimly lit street and that Bridegan presumably opened his car door to move the tire. That’s when he was shot multiple times as his 2-year-old daughter sat in her car seat. She was found unharmed in the car.
Gardner married Fernandez Saldana in 2018 and moved to Washington following media coverage of the case, officials said.
After the killing, she told news outlets, including the Florida Times-Union and FirstCoast News, that she wasn’t involved in Bridegan’s death.
A warrant for Gardner’s arrest said an investigation into Bridegan’s background revealed the couple had a “highly acrimonious divorce” and a “contentious relationship” with both Gardner and Fernandez Saldana.
Gardner’s parents, Shelli and Sterling Gardner, issued a statement.
“Words cannot accurately express the depth of our sadness,” they said. “Family is our top priority. We love our daughter and are focused on supporting her and our entire family as we help our grandchildren navigate this difficult and very confusing time. For their sake and all involved, we caution against further speculation and request privacy as the legal process runs its course.”
Kristin Bridegan said the arrest ends one chapter.
“Shanna’s arrest ends one horrific chapter of our pursuit of justice for Jared and now we open a new one,” she said. “This next chapter will be excruciating. … We expect justice to be carried out to the fullest extent of the law.”