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Vic Micolucci, I-Team reporter, anchor
Vic Micolucci, I-Team reporter, anchor
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State Attorney Melissa Nelson and Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith announced Thursday the arrest of Mario Fernandez Saldana, 34, in the murder case of Jared Bridegan.
He was arrested in Kissimmee Thursday morning and is now in the Orange County Jail.
“This is a capital felony punishable by death, or mandatory life in prison,” Nelson said.
Fernandez is the husband of Bridegan’s ex-wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez. He’s charged with first degree murder with a weapon, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, solicitation to commit a capital felony and child abuse.
Watch entire news conference below
The state attorney’s office identified Henry Tenon, 61, as the shooter. He was arrested last month, and is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree murder with a weapon, accessory after the fact to a capital felony and felony child abuse.
According to the arrest warrant, bank records showed three handwritten checks that Fernandez wrote to Tenon. It also reads “phone records show that Tenon and Fernandez had 35 phone contacts in February, 30 contacts in March and five to nine contacts in May and June, 2022.”
“We have fought hard for the truth, and the world now knows what we’ve known all along–that Jared truly was an innocent victim,” Kirsten Bridegan said at the news conference.
Kirsten went on to say, “We’re here today feeling many emotions. We have great relief knowing that two of the people behind my husband’s murders are now behind bars. and are no longer a threat to her family. Were also still angry, angry that they were walking free.”
Nelson said Tenon plead guilty in court Thursday and agreed to testify against those who helped.
Feb. 16, 2022, Bridegan left the home of his ex-wife in Jacksonville Beach and then stopped on a dark stretch of road near the Sanctuary neighborhood to move a tire out of the road, according to investigators.
Bridegan, 33, was then shot at close range several times while his toddler daughter was still strapped into her car seat in the back of his SUV. No arrests were made in connection with the ambush murder for nearly a year until investigators announced one in January.
According to court documents, the conspiracy that led to the murder of Bridegan began Jan. 4, 2022 — just over a month before he was killed.
Nelson said at a news conference in January: “We know Henry Tenon did not act alone.”
Bridegan’s wife, Kirsten, said in February that the news of a conspiracy had only confirmed her suspicions.“I’ve felt that way since early on, so it did not come as a surprise to me. And I’m just hoping that we’ll get those additional arrests in the near future,” she said. “I have my full faith in the investigation and the people that are working on it, and we’re gonna get there.”
The News4JAX I-TEAM uncovered records confirming that Tenon rented a house owned by Mario Fernandez, who is married to Jared Bridegan’s ex-wife. The home is in Northwest Jacksonville, about 25 miles from the scene of the Jacksonville Beach shooting. Melissa Nelson confirmed this information on Thursday.
There’s been a lot of public interest in Bridegan’s ex-wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez and her second husband. 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, and Fernandez remains in Florida.
Melissa Nelson stated that the investigation continues.
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