Duval County

Judge still considering if Shanna Gardner, accused in Jared Bridegan murder, can post bond

Shanna Gardner first court appearance, 11/3/23

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On Wednesday afternoon, the woman charged in the murder-for-hire of her ex-husband is making a special request in court.

Shanna Gardner is asking to be allowed to post bond.

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Gardner’s high-profile attorney, Jose Baez, filed the bond motion months ago.

Follow along below for updates from Action News Jax’s Meghan Moriarty, who is in the courtroom:

7:42 p.m.: Court has adjourned. Judge London Kite will take both the state and the defense’s presentations under advisement. The next court date will be May 24 at 1 p.m.

Here are Moriarty’s notes from court:

Started a little after 5:30 p.m.

Defense witness #1: Hank Coxe, Gardner’s former attorney

  • Cox talks about how he sent a letter to State Attorney’s Office saying Gardner would surrender if they wanted her to and no one responded.

Defense witness #2 via Zoom, was clergy member of LDS church

Defense witness #3 Marlow Rogers, Shannon’s Washington neighbor

Defense Witness #4 Megan White, Shanna’s older sister (lives in Utah)

  • “She was being run out of her home” (when she moved out of Florida)
  • Kids have expressed they miss mom
  • “There have been times where LB has had problems when he’s been struggling and later on when Shanna has called he’ll find that she’s been having a rough day also so it’s a connection that goes beyond distance.”
  • Said if Shanna gets bond she’ll remain in the state and parents will come down with the kids.
  • “I don’t think they cared about how he [Jared] treated their daughter.”
  • Q: “Stampin’ Up released a letter about Jared’ death? A: “Yes.” Q: “Despite this, you’re saying has your family hasn’t talked about Jared’s murder?” A: “We’ve discussed it but we haven’t speculated.”

Closing arguments began at 6:36 p.m., with the State Attorney’s Office going first:

  • “This was a cold, calculated pre-meditated murder following years of planning … ”
  • There are no direct text messages that the state will ever find because she planned this with her ex-husband.
  • “She wanted freedom from Jared Bridegan, freedom to do what she wanted to do with the children, freedom with her trust.”
  • She was her own worst enemy ... because she was so vocal for so long about wanting this to happen and how she hated Jared.
  • We are filing our motion to deny her bail.
  • We have proved that she had committed the charges against her.
  • We have a tremendous circumstantial evidence against her based on her words or actions.
  • State mentioned that they’ll never have other evidence unless Mario becomes a cooperating witness.
  • The most damning evidence we have is text messages to her best friend.
  • The consequence speaks to the action. He [Mario] would not have done this … if she hadn’t said yes because in the end she got what she wanted. Her and Mario stayed married but they went their separate ways. She got access to her trust
  • “Who ended up with everything they wanted? Shanna Gardner.”
  • “It wasn’t I wish I could hire a hit man. It was, I’m serious.”
  • “She set this event in motion. Without her this wouldn’t have happened.”
  • “She may not have pulled the trigger, but she has Jared Bridegan’s blood on her hands.”

Defense’s arguments:

  • “They could have called Kim Jensen to the stand for you, your honor.”
  • “They chose to call a detective who couldn’t even get his facts right.”
  • According to defense, Kim Jensen was brought in during a traffic stop and essentially forced her down to the SAO. When she made statements to detectives, the defense said these were not recorded. So it’s hearsay
  • “You have no evidence of any planning, plotting or participation.”
  • Ms. Gardner has no criminal history
  • Asks court to not take into consideration family’s money when/if setting bond.

5:51 p.m.: The defense calls Hank Coxe to the stand, who was Gardner’s first attorney.

5:47 p.m.: Baez cross-examined Detective Chris Johns with Jax Beach PD for the defense.

  • Showing text messages to the detective about how “I’m gonna kill someone” have been used in other conversations but doesn’t mean Shanna is actually going to kill someone.
  • “The next message says, ‘I need a break from my kids, like I’m ready to kill them,’” Baez said. “and that’s a lot of how Shanna Gardner speaks.”
  • Baez: “So you’re the lead detective in this case where they allegedly looking for a hit man. You have it right there in black in white … and you never go talk to the person that they’re allegedly looking for?
  • Johns: “I believe when we were looking for her her phone number had changed and we were unable to contact her.” Then said he had to check his notes
  • Baez: “You knew you were testifying in a capital death penalty case and you didn’t bring your notes?”

*shifting to night of murder

  • 17:16 “She [Kim Jensen] in fact told you [detective] that this was just how they spoke.”
  • 17:17 (Baez) You don’t have any text messages about hiring a hit man in 2020 or 2021 or anything like that? (detective) “no”
  • 17:20 [Baez] You are aware there’s not a single text message between Shanna Gardner and Henry Tenon that exists on this earth? [detective] “No I’m not aware of that. [baez] “And you never found any phone records between Henry Tenon and Shanna Gardner.”
  • (Baez) 17:20 “And in fact Henry Tenon told you that he never met Shanna Gardner”
  • No DNA evidence tying Shanna to crime (detective agreed)
  • 17:23 *Mario had access to trust account. “There’s not a single check signed by Shanna Gardner from that account.” (Detective) Not that I’m aware of
  • 17:37 ***Baez comment about how this is detective’s first homicide case

Re-direct

  • 18:34 *SAO Defense said there weren’t text messages talking about a hit man after 2017, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t discussed? Detective: KJ said there were some conversations about it

3:23 p.m.: The court is taking a 15-minute recess. Here’s what’s happened in the last hour, continuing with testimony from Detective Chris Johns, Jax Beach PD:

  • Text messages say, “I would love to see him get a lethal injection.”
  • Gardner used the word “stupid” to reference Jared
  • “Ms Gardner is upset. She says is it too late to get a hit man I’m serious. I think Ms. Jensen is trying to talk her down a bit. Then they move on to does she know anyone who could actually carry this out.”
  • Texts: “I’m not even joking I want him gone.”

The state asks to introduce more texts. Defense objects, saying these are from six years prior and that they’re stale.

State Attorney’s Office said, “They are relevant because they show Ms. Gardner’s state of mind.”

Defense: Ms. Gardner never asked Ms. Jensen to reach out [whoever].

Back to Detective Johns’ testimony:

  • In 2016, Justin went to Jax Beach PD saying Shanna made a statement to him that she was so angry with Jared sometimes that she thought about hiring a hit man.
  • “[Mario said to Shanna] there was a delay in killing Jared” because it was COVID and “nobody leaves their house during COVID” [convo between KJ and Shanna]
  • Hawaii trip week before murder with Gardner family and Mario.
  • Ms. Jensen described a conversation that she had “the text messages between the two of them had indicated that she [Gardner] was frustrated with the marriage [with Mario] and she was gonna call it off with him [Mario].” They discussed that and they were going through with plans [for divorce]. “Mario stated to Shanna and said he was going to kill Jared and if she didn’t want that to happen she needed to speak up now.”
  • While interviewing the kids (Shanna’s) the kids stated they thought Mario was in his game room during the time of the murder, because his console was on. However, phone records, charge records, and hotel reservations show he made a trip to Canada instead. Detective said unsure why he did that.
  • August 2022: Tenon now on their radar
  • When Tenon was arrested on driving on a suspended license and other charges, Gardner alerted her attorney, which detective found odd.
  • More texts in August 2022 between Shanna and someone named Thomas. Messages stated they weren’t sure what the charges were but seemed unrelated to (redacted) or anything related to Jared.”
  • Leaked to the media that there would be an arrest coming in the case of Bridegan.
  • Shanna called Kim Jensen to ask if she should give Mario a heads-up about the big break in the case.
  • Per Detective: Gardner called her PR company she said that she admitted to knowing Henry that she met him 5 years ago but there should be no paperwork tying her to the property.
  • Gardner told her PR firm that she had given money to Tenon earlier that year for a palette company and the PR firm said ‘We should stop talking about this over the phone.’
  • Q: Where did the funds to pay Henry Tenon come from?” A: “The money came to from the trust that was established by Mr. and Mrs. Gardner.”
  • Q: “Anyone else with a motive or such depth to have Jared Bridegan killed?” A: “No”

2:19 p.m.: Kirsten Bridegan + family friends fill the pews (4 ½) on their side of the courtroom.

On the other side, there’s a row of family/friends for Gardner (7 people), including Gardner’s parents.

State Attorney’s Office begins with first witness:

Witness #1: Detective Chris Johns, Jax Beach PD

  • Dispatched to Bridegan homicide scene
  • Said at least two rounds struck the car, just in front of (Bridegan’s then-2-year-old daughter) Bexley’s car seat.
  • Asking if Bexley said anything after the shooting “Mentioned boom boom. Had to take her shoes off to cover her ears. Made mention that her daddy was sick and had to go to the doctor.”
  • “Mr. (Henry) Tenon was a tenant at one of their rental properties and he had been approached by Mr. Fernandez a number of times and asked if he would participate in a homicide. He said he initially denied the request.”
  • Then they offered him $150,000, he agreed.
  • The original plan was to kidnap Bridegan and take him to another location and murder him.
  • They were initially planning this in late 2021 and then after returning from a Hawaii trip in February he told him it had to happen this week and that “if he [Tenon] didn’t get it done his [Fernandez] marriage was going to end.”
  • “He [Tenon] was promised $150,000 in the form of investment in a palate business.” Reason: to not raise suspicion
  • “In the beginning, we really didn’t have any suspects.” Investigators looked at everyone in the family and then began to eliminate from there.
  • SAO: Did Bridegan have debts he owed? Issues with people? Affairs?
  • “He was a very boring person who lived a very plain and religious life.”
  • Q: “Did you start looking at Mario and Shanna as suspects?” A: “Almost immediately.”
  • Detective said when interviewing friends they said, “Gardner stated that she hated Jared and couldn’t stand sharing custody with him and she wanted dead.”
  • They were in court at least annually [for divorce]. It got to a point where Shanna and Jared didn’t communicate without an attorney.
  • Ms. Gardner was attempting to start a social or DCF (Florida Department of Children and Families) investigation to get sole custody over the children.
  • Q: “What did they fight about?” A: “Everything from schedules to who could be around when the children were there. Then more severe things like medications and medical devices.”
  • Q: What about religion? A: “One of the twins said she wanted to be baptized into the Latter-day saints and this was very troubling to her [Shanna].”
  • Detective interviewed Shanna twice
  • First interview, she was not a suspect. March 1, 2022.
  • “She was very forthcoming. It was a very typical interview. She was very talkative and provided a lot of context without a lot of questions being asked.”
  • The general tone of it was ‘I don’t know a lot about Jared now but I can tell you what he was like during our marriage.’
  • Said he [Jared] was manipulative and caused a lot of trauma
  • Fernandez asked if him and Gardner could come by [to Jax Beach PD] because they were experiencing a lot of people bothering them and saying a lot of people in their neighborhood were going around saying they killed murder
  • Shanna’s demeanor was much for upset because she thought she was being attacked in the media really on social media. She was afraid to leave her home because people were recognizing her and essentially blaming her.
  • They asked her [Shanna] if she had any theories about what happened to Jared.
  • “She said that maybe it was a drug deal gone wrong or a gang initiation and then she stated that we should look into Kirsten Bridegan (Jared’s widow).”
  • “She stated that Sanctuary Blvd is where you go to buy drugs in Jax Beach.” Detective said he had never heard of that in his 5 years in Jax Beach.
  • SAO: Detective Johns who is Kim Jensen in relation to Ms. Gardner? Officer: Their friendship began before Gardner divorce. They were best friends. They obtained Kim Jensen’s phone records.
  • Text messages from 2015 between KJ and SG were shown.
  • More texts: “Matt was ready to come over here and talk to him and it wouldn’t get physical yet.”
  • “Funeral potatoes casserole” was a phrase the two used in reference to Jared’s death

1:51 p.m.: A detective with the Jacksonville Beach Police Department takes the stand.

1:44 p.m.: Court begins after some housekeeping delays. Gardner’s parents are in the courtroom, which is packed.

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The case background

Gardner is accused of conspiring to kill her ex-husband, Jared Bridegan, with her estranged husband Mario Fernandez Saldana and Henry Tenon, a man who was a tenant of Saldana.

Bridegan was killed in Jacksonville Beach on Feb. 16, 2022. He was shot and killed when he got out of his car to move a tire out of the road while his daughter was in the car. Prosecutors say that tire was put there on purpose to get Bridegan out of his car.

Read: Body cam video shows arrest of Shanna Gardner in ex-husband Jared Bridegan’s murder

Gardner was arrested in Washington state in August last year. She was denied bond upon extradition to Jacksonville in October.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that the State Attorney’s Office could stay on the case after defense attorneys for Gardner and Saldana argued that the state had access to privileged information on Gardner’s iCloud account. The judge decided text messages between Gardner and her attorneys are not privileged information. However, she did suppress them, which means they can’t be used in court.

Gardner’s bond hearing is set for 1 p.m. at Duval County Courthouse. You can count on Action News Jax to be there and give you the latest updates.

Read: Judge denies defense’s motion to disqualify State Attorney’s Office in Jared Bridegan case

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