THE ex-wife of a murdered Microsoft executive was immediately a prime suspect in his brutal killing, according to new court documents.
The Microsoft executive had just dropped off the twins he shared with Gardner at her home in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, on February 16, 2022.
On the way back to his own house, Bridegan, 33, saw a tire placed in the middle of the road and stopped his car.
The father-of-four got out of his SUV to move the tire from the street and was shot at four times.
Two bullets hit Bridegan and two others pierced his vehicle.
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His then two-year-old daughter was inside the car and saw the whole thing unfold.
Roughly 800 pages of court documents released on Tuesday revealed that she described the horror to the police.
“Daddy opened my car door and I heard a boom,” she said, according to the police docs.
She said she saw her father on the ground, telling investigators that “daddy was sick.”
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The traumatized toddler sat in the car near her father’s dead body for three minutes until someone passed by and noticed.
A group of Good Samaritans quickly realized she was in need of help and stayed with her until cops got there.
Her father died of his gunshot wounds.
Investigators quickly honed in on his ex-wife Gardner as a suspect, according to the court documents.
Cops talked to her on the night of the murder and she told them that her divorce from Bridegan “was not amicable,” and that the pair only communicated through text.
At the time, she claimed she “did not know if the victim had any issues with anyone which would lead to his death.”
However, Bridegan’s widow, Kristen, told a different story.
“Shanna and Mario lie to the kids and try to make Jared look bad to them,” she told investigators, local news outlet WJXT reported, citing the court docs.
“The only person who had ill will toward him is Shanna and Mario.”
Police subpoenaed cellphone records for Gardner and Fernandez just two days after the Microsoft executive was gunned down.
‘BEGINNING OF THE END’
On March 1, 2022, both Gardner and Fernandez were brought in by police for separate interviews.
When describing their relationship, Gardner said that she and Bridegan had a rocky start from the beginning.
She said they had a bad first date but that she was “desperate” and he was successful in persuading her.
They married after just two months of dating, and during the police interview, Gardener speculated that Bridegan was after her wealthy Mormon family’s money.
The mom-of-two then told how she met her current husband, Fernandez, at the gym and the two fell for each other quickly.
She described their meeting as “the beginning of the end” of her marriage to Bridegan.
Garnder also said her divorce from Bridegan had been “traumatic,” claiming he refused to move out of the house they shared and wanted half of the money from selling it.
Fernandez backed up Gardner’s statement, agreeing that they fell in love quickly.
When police asked him who could have murdered Bridegan, he told police, “You need to get in line if [you’re] looking for people who didn’t like him.”
The court documents show that multiple neighbors believed that Fernandez was involved in the death of the gunned-down father.
Even friends of the couple suspected that he might be involved.
One friend recounted a conversation that she had with Gardner in which the suspect allegedly told her, “Mario offered to get four guys and break into Bridegan’s residence…to take care of him, and nobody would ever know.”
The friend said that Fernandez had told her, “You know I’ve killed people before.”
Authorities also spoke to a college friend of Fernandez who claimed she spoke to him the night of the murder.
She said during their phone call, Fernandez claimed to have known who had murdered Bridegan and referred to the incident as a “hit and run.”
The woman clarified that during the conversation Fernandez never directly threatened Bridegan.
Authorities got subpoenas for Fernandez and Gardner’s bank statements as they investigated the shell casings found at the scene.
On July 18, 2022, police visited a rental home owned by Fernandez and spoke to one of his tenants.
There happened to be a spare tire leaning on the house, and the tenant said that he found it on the curb.
The man gave the tire to police, and they took it back for testing.
On the way out, cops encountered a man named Henry Tenon but did not initially speak with him about the case.
The tire ended up being a match to the one found in the road at the murder scene.
During their second visit with the tenant, he told police that Tenon recently got a blue Ford pickup truck after his father died.
This was key information as cops released a photo of a blue truck as part of their investigation into Bridgan’s death.
Police zeroed in on Tenon as their murder suspect as cellphone records showed he was in Jacksonville Beach at the time of the murder.
He was later arrested on unrelated charges in August 2022.
When questioned about the murder, he first denied any involvement and blamed a friend, who he said borrowed his truck the night of the murder.
However, on October 14, police were able to get a hold of Tenon’s bank records and found three checks totaling $10,000 from First Choice Home Rentals LLC, a company owned by Fernandez and Gardner.
He received three different checks that were all signed by Fernandez, the court documents say.
‘WHOLE AND ENTIRE TRUTH’
In January 2023, Tenon was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, child abuse, and accessory after the fact to a capital felony.
“Henry Tenon has admitted he was, in fact, the shooter,” State Attorney Melissa Nelson said.
She added that Tenon accepted a plea deal with authorities and would assist investigators in the case.
He agreed to testify against those allegedly involved in the murder-for-hire plot, including Gardner and Fernandez.
Fernandez was arrested two months later, on March 2023. Police have accused him of orchestrating the murder plan that ended with Bridegan’s death.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder with a weapon, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit a capital felony, and child abuse.
Gardner was arrested on August 2023 and faced the same charges as her husband.
“Where are your jeans, mom?” one of Gardner’s children could be heard asking during the arrest
“I love you, honey,” the mother said as officers led her to a police cruiser.
Nelson is looking to pursue the death penalty against both Fernandez and Gardner.
Meanwhile, Gardner’s lawyers are looking to get her released on bond.
“She has every expectation of being found not guilty at trial,” her attorney said.
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They also claim that since she knew she was going to be arrested and didn’t flee the United States or fight extradition in Washington state, she should be eligible for bond.
The state has yet to respond to the bond motion.
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