A second man has been arrested for the 2022 ambush murder of Microsoft executive Jared Bridegan, authorities say.
Mario Enrique Fernandez Saldana, 34, the husband of victim Bridegan’s ex-wife, was indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder with a weapon, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit a capital felony, and child abuse, Florida 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson announced on Thursday.
The final charge is there because Bridegan’s 2-year-old daughter was in the backseat of his SUV — in harm’s way — when he died, the prosecutor explained. The affidavit for the arrest warrant noted that bullets struck near the child in the interior of the vehicle.
Officers in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, previously said that Bridegan had taken out three of his children for a routine weekly dinner on Feb. 16, 2022, before he dropped off his 9-year-old twins at his ex-wife’s home. Returning home with his 2-year-old daughter in the back of his SUV, he came across a tire in a dark area of Sanctuary Boulevard.
Investigators believe someone put it there on purpose to make him stop. Bridegan opened his SUV door, presumably to move the tire, Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith said in a January press conference.
“It was then that he was gunned down in cold blood,” the chief said.
From the oft-redacted arrest warrant affidavit against Fernandez Saldana:
Bridegan’s wife, Kirsten Bridegan, spoke to him just moments before the murder; she told investigators there was nothing unusual in that conversation. Bridegan was not armed and there was no evidence of a struggle. Bridegan’s personal items — his wristwatch, wedding ring, phone, money, and wallet — were not taken. His car was not stolen, and his daughter was not physically harmed. Bullets struck the interior of the vehicle, in close proximity to where the child was strapped into her car, an act that reasonably could have been expected to cause physical or mental injury to her. Witnesses advised that the child was crying when they arrived on scene.
Fernandez Saldana was arrested Thursday and sent to the Orange County Jail, authorities said.
Police had previously arrested Henry Tenon, 62, in January, for Bridegan’s death. Nelson announced Thursday that Tenon pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with a weapon. (Online records don’t show that at this point.) She said that Tenon admitted to being the actual gunman who killed Bridegan.
The 62-year-old had lived on property owned by Fernandez Salanda, Nelson said.
Tenon agreed to testify against those he worked with to murder Bridegan, the prosecutor said. Nelson declined to say if there will be more arrests in the case.
The victim’s ex-wife previously denied wrongdoing.
“It is becoming necessary to respond,” Shanna Gardner-Fernandez told The Florida Times-Union in a June 30 report. “I didn’t want it to make a spectacle. I want people to know where I am coming from.”
She declined to discuss her divorce with Bridegan, in which she had accused him of “disturbing and abusive behavior.” He claimed she locked him out of the master bedroom and installed surveillance devices in both his car and the children’s bedroom.
“I don’t see any good in airing our dirty laundry,” she reportedly said.
The affidavit noted that Fernandez Saldana and Gardner-Fernandez met at her CrossFit gym in 2018. Fernandez Saldana was a maintenance man there. Authorities redacted most of the following text, however. Investigators did leave in that Gardner-Fernandez shared custody of her children with Jared Bridegan. They also mentioned a financial link between Tenon and Fernandez Saldana.
“Affiant received Tenon’s financial records from PNC Bank on October 14, 2022,” the affidavit stated. “Upon conducting the initial review, three handwritten checks were discovered from Fernandez Saldana.”
Tenon and Fernandez Saldana had “35 phone contacts” in February 2022, 30 in March 2022, and “5-9” in May and June 2022, the affidavit said.
When asked by a reporter, Nelson did not specify whether or not prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Fernandez Saldana.
“Should we file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, we will do it within the 45 day requirement after Fernandez Saldana is arraigned,” she said.
Kirsten Bridegan, who was Jared Bridegan’s wife when he died, joined authorities in the press conference on Thursday.
“Justice for Jared will not be stopped, and we will not be silenced,” she said. “We know there’s still a long way to go before all those responsible are truly held accountable, but today is a very significant day for our family.”
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