‘She set this event in motion;’ State argues ex-wife of Microsoft Exec doesn’t deserve bond

The mother accused in a murder-for-hire plot will return to court next week. The judge has not decided if Shanna Gardner deserves bond.

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“She set this event in motion. Without her this wouldn’t have happened,” the State Attorney’s Office argued. “She may not have pulled the trigger, but she has Jared Bridegan’s blood on her hands.”

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Gardner’s defense team fired back saying the state has no evidence against Garnder.

“You have no evidence of any planning, plotting or participation,” the defense said.

The State Attorney’s office called its first and only witness who took the stand for about four hours.

Chris Johns is a detective with the Jacksonville Beach Police Department. He was dispatched to the Bridegan homicide scene on the night of the murder.

“[She] mentioned ‘boom boom,’” Johns said, referencing Bridegan’s two-year-old daughter, Bexley, who witnessed the murder. “[She said] she had to take her shoes off to cover her ears. Made mention that her daddy was sick and had to go to the doctor.”

Detective Johns said based on the investigation, it’s believed Mario Fernandez-Saldana and Shanna Gardner started planning the murder in late 2021. The original plan was to kidnap Bridegan an take him to another location and murder him, according to Johns.

RELATED: LIVE UPDATES: Judge to reconsider if Shanna Gardner, accused in Jared Bridegan murder, can post bond

“After returning from a Hawaii trip in February, he [Mario] told him [Henry Tenon] it had to happen this week,” Johns said, referencing the murder. “And that if he [Tenon] didn’t get it done his [Mario’s] marriage was going to end.”

Action News Jax told you when Henry Tenon pleaded guilty to murdering Jared Bridegan. He admitted to pulling the trigger and said Fernandez-Saldana and Gardner put him up to it.

“He [Tenon] was promised $150,000 in the form of investment in a palate business,” Johns said.

The State Attorney’s Office then shifted to text messages between Shanna Gardner and her friend Kim Jensen, who is mentioned several times during testimony.

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

“Gardner [was] stating that she hated Jared and couldn’t stand sharing custody with him,” Johns said “She wanted him dead. 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.”

Johns said Jensen gave them details about text conversations, regarding Mario getting someone to kill Bridegan. The defense argues it is hearsay and pointed to the fact that prosecutors did not call Jensen to the stand.

Investigators interviewed Shanna Gardner twice following Bridegan’s murder. During both interviews, Detective Johns said she was not a suspect.

“She was very forthcoming. It was a very typical interview,” Johns said. “She was very talkative and provided a lot of context without a lot of questions being asked.”

Johns said Gardner told investigators she didn’t know much about the type of person Bridegan was when he was killed, but she could tell them what he was like during their marriage.

“Said he [Jared] was manipulative and caused a lot of trauma,” Johns said.

During the second interview with Gardner, she voluntarily came to the station because she said she was being attacked online, and blamed for Bridegan’s murder. She provided her own theories for what might have happened.

RELATED: Never-before-seen interview with Shanna Gardner a year before her arrest for Jared Bridegan’s murder

“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,” Johns said. “She stated that Sanctuary Boulevard is where you go to buy drugs in Jacksonville Beach.”

Detective Johns stated that he does not believe people go to that area of town to buy drugs, and that Kirsten Bridegan is not considered a suspect.

Jose Baez, who is leading Gardner’s defense team, cross examined Detective Johns.

He accuses Johns of not preparing for his testimony on Wednesday.

“You knew you were testifying in a capital death penalty case and you didn’t bring your notes?” Baez said, when Johns could not remember details of his investigation. “You’re the lead detective in this case, where they allegedly are looking for a hit man, and you never go talk to the person that they’re allegedly looking for?”

Baez went on to argue that there are no text messages or phone calls linking Shanna Gardner to the alleged hit man, Henry Tenon.

“You are aware there’s not a single text message between Shanna Gardner and Henry Tenon that exists on this Earth,” Baez said.

Tenon was paid a portion of the money he was promised for the murder. However, Baez argued that Fernandez-Saldana had access to the trust fund where this money came from.

“There’s not a single check signed by Shanna Gardner from that account,” Baez said. The detective agreed saying, “not that I’m aware of.”

The defense team called four witnesses for their case. First, they called Henry (Hank) Coxe, Gardner’s first attorney. He said Gardner stayed in contact with him, saying she would turn herself in if the State Attorney’s Office was looking for her in this case. However, she moved to Washington because of threats to her family.

The last witness for the defense was Megan White, Shanna’s older sister.

“She was being run out of her home,” White said, referencing Gardner moving out of Jacksonville following the murder.

White testified that Gardner’s twins, whom she had with Jared, have expressed that they miss their mother.

RELATED: Shanna Gardner’s attorneys claims state violated attorney client privilege

“There have been times where LB [Shanna’s son] has had problems when he’s been struggling,” White said. “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.”

White said if Gardner is granted bond, she would stay in the state. She said their family is ready to support Gardner, and her parents will bring the kids to visit with Gardner.

After the five-and-a-half-hour witness testimony, closing statements began.

“This was a cold calculated pre-meditated murder following years of planning,” The state’s prosecutor began. “She wanted freedom from Jared Bridegan.”

The state argued that Fernandez-Saldana would not have done “this” if she hadn’t said yes.

Gardner will return to court on May 24, at 1:00 p.m. to determine the outcome of the bail hearing.

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