Local

Murder-for-hire suspect's attorney says she's innocent

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — For the first time, the husband and wife charged in the murder-for-hire plot of a local father appeared in court together.

Shanna Gardner and Mario Fernandez-Saldana are charged with the 2022 murder of Jared Bridegan, Gardner’s ex-husband.

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In court Friday, Gardner waived her right to a speedy trial, and she did that next to her attorney Jose Baez, meanwhile Mario Fernandez-Saldana and his attorney spent time discussing a filed motion.

Gardner entered a Duval County court room, wearing a black shirt and gray pants.

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“I think everybody should be dressed in plain clothes,” said Baez. “She’s presumed innocent and she is innocent at this time. So she should be dressed like everyone else.”

Shanna Gardner is one of three people charged with the murder of her ex-husband Jared Bridegan.

Bridegan, a St. Johns County father of four, was gunned down Feb., 2022, in Jacksonville Beach.

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Mario Fernandez-Saldana is also charged in this case. He, along with Gardner, are facing murder, conspiracy, and other charges.

Saldana’s lawyers filed a motion to have local prosecutors disqualified from the case, claiming there were private communications on the phone between Saldana and Shanna Gardner as well as privileged attorney-client communication. Some of those included text messages and emails.

“Those emails were never read, opened or accessed by anyone from the state attorneys office or law enforcement,” said Christina Stifler, assistant state attorney.

Jose Baez said one of the biggest challenges in this case is the publicity that comes with it.

“There’s a lot of people and a lot of publicity out there that somehow paints a story that is yet to be proven and in fact, has yet to show up by way of evidence. So, that’s a horrible challenge for any citizen accused to be facing,” said Baez.

Jared and Kirsten Bridegan’s family friends made a point to be in court Friday morning.

They said they made bracelets to remind people that the murder case is continuing, and they want justice for Jared.

“We just want them to know that there is the community and that they have love and support, and just to get justice for Jared,” said Denise Fromme, a friend of Kirsten Bridegan.

The next court date for Fernandez-Saldana is Dec.11th, meanwhile Gardner’s next court appearance is set for February 2.

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