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 Jared Bridegan, Jacksonville Beach Police Department Chief Gene Paul Smith said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
The I-TEAM has uncovered records confirming that Tenon rented a house owned by Mario Fernandez, who is married to Bridegan’s ex-wife. The home is in Northwest Jacksonville, about 25 miles from the scene of the Jacksonville Beach shooting.
State Attorney Melissa Nelson said the conspiracy charge is also significant.
“We know Henry Tenon did not act alone,” she said.
Nelson also explained that the child abuse charge against Tenon stems from the fact Bridegan’s 2 ½-year-old daughter was in the backseat of his sport utility vehicle “directly in harm’s way when her father was shot and killed in front of her.” The child was not injured.
UNCUT: Press the play button below to watch the entire news conference.
Bridegan, 33, had just left the home of his ex-wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, the night of the ambush on Feb. 16. 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.
According to detectives, the Microsoft manager was shot at close range several times after he stopped to move a tire out of the road on a dark stretch near the Sanctuary neighborhood. That tire, investigators believe, was part of the setup.
“He was gunned down in cold blood. Nothing was stolen from him. His 2-year-old daughter remained strapped in the car seat in the back. This was a planned and targeted ambush and murder,” Smith said during Wednesday’s news conference. “The ruthless homicide has pained our community.”
There’s been a lot of public interest in 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.
A report from Fox News states Gardner-Fernandez was spotted in Washington state — hours before News4JAX reported Monday evening that there was a major development in the case. 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.
Smith thanked all those who stepped up with tips in the case about both the truck and the tire that was left in the road, and asked anyone with information about Tenon to come forward.
“It was very helpful,” Smith said Wednesday. “We hope to have more answers to provide to you even if not it cannot be today.”
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 on charges connected to a domestic battery — to which he pleaded no contest — and a hit-and-run crash.
Nelson said they have obtained a court order sealing Tenon’s arrest warrant and affidavit on the Bridegan charges 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. That would carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Nelson said the conspiracy charge could carry a sentence up to 30 years, the accessory charge could carry up to 30 years, the child abuse charge could carry up to five years and the second-degree murder charge could carry up to life in prison.
News4JAX reported Tuesday night that an arrest was imminent after the I-TEAM received information from three different law enforcement sources.
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.
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.