Hudson Tragedy Spotlights Chicago's Crime Problem The mother and brother of singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson were found dead in an apparent homicide in the Hudson's family home last week. Yesterday, Julian King, her seven-year-old nephew — who'd been missing since the murders — was found dead. The tragedy has stoked concerns about violent crime in Chicago.
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Hudson Tragedy Spotlights Chicago's Crime Problem

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Hudson Tragedy Spotlights Chicago's Crime Problem

Hudson Tragedy Spotlights Chicago's Crime Problem

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Coming up, how the case of Troy Davis is raising new questions about the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Davis is the Georgia man who had been scheduled to be executed yesterday for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer. But on Friday, a federal appeals court stayed the execution. We'll talk about why in just a few minutes.

But first, we have another tragic story that has captured the nation's attention. The body of Julian King was discovered yesterday in Chicago. He was the seven-year-old son of Julia Hudson, and the nephew of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson. Hudson's mother and brother were also found dead in their home on Chicago's South Side on Friday, the apparent victims of a homicide that authorities described as a case of domestic violence. At that point, authorities began searching for Julian King. With us now for an update is NPR's Cheryl Corley. She's been following developments in the case, and she's joining us from our Chicago bureau. Hello, Cheryl, thanks so much for speaking with us.

CHERYL CORLEY: Yes, thank you.

MARTIN: Do police have any idea yet when the child was killed, and any theory about why?

CORLEY: Well, they're hoping to get that information today, when they conduct an autopsy. As you've outlined, Julian was missing from the home on Friday when his grandmother and uncle were killed in the family home, his body found yesterday. So, from Friday to Monday, we're really not certain when exactly he may have been murdered, and the autopsy should provide that sort of information. Police who live in the area where the van was found, on the west side of Chicago, say the vehicle may have been there a day, the SUV, not a van. But there's still some uncertainty about that, and police say they'll be checking video surveillance from cameras located throughout the city in an effort to get information. They continue to talk to witnesses, including the Hudson family. Police Superintendent Jody Weis called them a key partner in this investigation. And it's - as far as to why, why anyone would kill a seven year old, you can only guess at this point that it might be that he was a witness to what happened in his home.

MARTIN: Now, we know that the Chicago police have been questioning a man named William Balfour, who is the estranged husband of Jennifer Hudson's sister, Julia. He is not Julian King's biological father. Balfour is now being held in state custody because of a parole violation, but why is he a person of interest?

CORLEY: Well, they haven't really detailed why, but he is Julian King's stepfather. Reportedly, he and Julian had a very close relationship. However, he is estranged from his wife, which may be one of the reasons - Julia Hudson, Jennifer Hudson's sister - he has not been charged, and he is a person of interest. And police continue to question him, although, as I understand, once he - they indicated that they would like to take a lie detector - like him to take a lie-detector test, he apparently stopped cooperating.

William Balfour lived in the home with the Hudsons. Balfour's mother has said that Jennifer Hudson's mother kicked Balfour out of the house last winter. She says her son had nothing to do with the killings. And the authorities here have said the murders were domestic-related. They also say, though, they don't have a motive for the murders, but because of that domestic relationship, that's why they're looking at William Balfour.

MARTIN: What's been the reaction in Chicago to these murders? I mean, obviously, Jennifer Hudson is a figure that a lot of people feel a sense of identification with, from her story on "American Idol," her incredible career - it's been going really well. She just visited us, just a couple of weeks ago, in a very happy place. We were talking about her new movie, "The Secret Life of Bees." But what's been the reaction in Chicago, her hometown?

CORLEY: Oh, well, as you might imagine, it's been incredible. She is a hometown hero, of sorts. And there've been public vigils here, people traveling to the home and making makeshift memorials, and you know, commenting on web pages and that sort of thing. You know, it's a tragedy for the Hudson family, it's a tragedy for the city, and particularly in her neighborhood. The family was very well-liked there. Jennifer Hudson said, you know, when she would come back to visit, that that's where she could be, you know, a regular person. And she was protected by the people in the community and felt very safe and happy there. And unfortunately, it ended up being not a very safe place for her family.

MARTIN: NPR's Cheryl Corley with us from Chicago. Cheryl, thank you so much for that update.

CORLEY: You're quite welcome.

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