JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The woman accused in the plot to kill her ex-husband Jared Bridegan in Jacksonville Beach in 2022 pleaded not guilty Friday morning in her first court appearance in Jacksonville.
When Gardner entered the courtroom Friday morning, she smiled at her attorney Jose Baez. Action News Jax told you on Thursday that Baez is now representing Gardner.
Baez became a household name during his representation of Casey Anthony in 2011 in Central Florida. She was accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter Caylee and was acquitted.
WATCH: See the full court hearing below
On Friday morning, Baez entered the plea of not guilty for Gardner, as she did not speak. The reading of the indictment was waived.
The State Attorney’s Office said it plans to seek the death penalty against Gardner, the ex-wife of Bridegan, who was a Microsoft executive.
The judge said from this point forward, because it is a joint indictment with Gardner’s current husband Mario Fernandez Saldana, she would schedule all hearings for the two of them together.
The state said during the hearing that it has more than 100 witnesses. Baez then whispered to Gardner, “I’ll come see you.”
The next court date for Gardner and Fernandez Saldana is Dec. 1 at 9 a.m.
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After Friday morning’s court hearing, Bridegan’s father Gaylord and sister Ashley read the following statement:
“If Jared were here today, he would look out at everyone, smile and express his appreciation to you. But, he’s not here today. Almost two years ago, my wife and I lost our youngest son to murder. Our children lost their dear brother. His wife, Kirsten, lost the love of her life. Jared’s children lost their father. His death has impacted many. The outpouring of support for Jared has been overwhelming and heartfelt.
“Jared was quiet, full of love, and one of the best fathers you can imagine. I think those responsible thought no one would care about Jared… but his family cared, all of his children cared, our community cared, and so did many wonderful people from all over the country.
“We cannot thank you enough for your love, prayers and support that you’ve given us. We are eager, as I’m sure you are, for the full truth to come out. We are very confident the state attorney will ultimately provide ‘justice for Jared.”
Action News Jax is the only TV station to have interviewed Gardner before her arrest. Friday night at 6 p.m. on CBS47 and FOX30 Action News Jax, we’ll bring you never-before-seen moments of that exclusive interview.
Bridegan, a St. Johns County father of four, was gunned down Feb. 16, 2022, in Jacksonville Beach. He had just taken his twins he shared with Gardner, and his then-2-year-old Bexley, his daughter with wife Kirsten Bridegan, to dinner.
The software engineer had just dropped off the twins at Gardner’s house when he encountered a tire on Sanctuary Boulevard, a one-way road. He was headed home to his second wife, Kirsten Bridegan, with whom he shared children Bexley and London.
Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith said during the announcement of the first arrest in January, that “the tire was purposely placed there to make him stop which he did.”
“Tragically he began to exit his vehicle to move the tire and he was gunned down in cold blood,” Smith said.
Bridegan was shot several times while Bexley was still strapped into a car seat in the back seat of his car.
The other arrests
Mario Fernandez Saldana was arrested in March on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, child abuse, and solicitation to commit a capital felony.
The arrest of Henry Tenon, 61, in connection to Bridegan’s murder was announced in January. He was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, accessory after the fact to a capital felony, child abuse, and second-degree murder
Tenon, who rented a home from Fernandez Saldana, agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder. That means Tenon faces 15 years to life in prison, but not the death penalty.