How investigators say they untangled conspiracy to kill Jared Bridegan

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – When fatal shots were fired on a dark stretch of road near the Sanctuary district on Feb. 16, 2022, investigators say it was the culmination of a week-long plot to kill Jared Bridegan.

The St. Johns County father of four had just left his ex-wife’s Jacksonville Beach home and pulled over to move a tire off the road, investigators say. A tire they say was placed there intentionally.

Bridegan, 33, was then shot multiple times at point-blank range while her baby girl was still strapped into her car seat in the back of her SUV. Police said the bullets fired at Bridegan entered the car, inches from her daughter’s car seat.

Jared Bridegan

The man who says he pulled the trigger – Henry Tenon, 61 – pleaded guilty on Thursday to his role in the Bridegan ambush.

Tenon was arrested last month and charged with conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree murder with a weapon, subsequent complicity in a capital crime and child abuse.

State’s Attorney Melissa Nelson said at a press conference Thursday that when Tenon pleaded guilty, he agreed to testify against a second person who investigators believe was involved in the murder plot: Mario Fernández Saldana.

Watch the full press conference below:

“We know that Henry Tenon did not act alone, and Tenon confirmed this to be true. His cooperation both corroborated the evidence gathered during the investigation and provided additional evidence against Mario Fernandez Saldana for his role in planning and executing Jared’s murder,” Nelson said.

Fernandez, 34, is the husband of Bridegan’s ex-wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez. He was arrested Thursday morning in Kissimmee and was being held in the Orange County Jail.

He appeared in Orange County court Friday morning and will be transferred to Duval County to face charges of first degree murder with a weapon, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, solicitation to commit a capital crime and child abuse.

“This is a capital offense punishable by death or mandatory life imprisonment,” Nelson said Thursday.

Mug shot by Mario Fernandez (Orange County Jail)

Investigators said the plot to kill Bridegan began on January 4, 2022, just over a month before he was killed.

They said when Tenon was arrested on an unrelated criminal driving charge in August 2022, they asked him about the Bridegan murder and a Ford F-150 truck they had been looking for since the shooting.

Tenon was arrested in January 2023 for the murder of Bridegan. Investigators said the only connection between Tenon and Bridegan was Fernandez.

The News4JAX I-TEAM previously uncovered recordings confirming that Tenon rented a home owned by Fernandez in northwest Jacksonville, about 25 miles from the Jacksonville Beach shooting scene. Nelson confirmed this information on Thursday.

According to Fernandez’s arrest warrant, bank statements showed three handwritten checks that Fernandez had written to Tenon. The check amount has been removed from the document.

Henry Tenon

Investigators also found the pair had more than 70 phone interactions in the months leading up to and following Bridegan’s death.

The warrant reads: “Phone records show Tenon and Fernandez had 35 phone contacts in February, 30 contacts in March, and five to nine contacts in May and June 2022.”

Reganel Reeves, an attorney with the Esquire Litigation Group, which is not affiliated with the case, said the appeals were important.

“The 35 calls,” Reeves said, “could argue that it was preparation and planning and it appears the shooter knew the victim’s schedule, knew where he would be, possibly setting up a trap.”

According to the warrant, Bridegan had a routine “date night” with his children the night he was killed and dropped off the two children he shared with his ex-wife before taking the typical route that borrowed to get home.

“This road, unlike the nearby commercial area, is dark and mostly residential, with no businesses in the immediate area,” the warrant says.

Reeves said Tenon agreeing to testify is “damaging.”

“I think it’s very detrimental to the husband of the ex in this case, the defendant, to have someone very connected to him testify that he was involved,” Reeves said.

The public took great interest in Bridegan’s ex-wife, who proclaimed her innocence in interviews with other media.

Mario Fernandez (left) and Shanna Gardner-Fernandez (right) (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.)

According to sources, Gardner-Fernandez moved with her children across the country to Benton County, Washington, where her family has a home.

Bridegan’s widow, Kirsten, said in February news of a conspiracy only confirmed her suspicions.

She spoke again at Thursday’s press conference.

“We fought hard for the truth, and the world now knows what we knew all along – that Jared was truly an innocent victim,” Kirsten Bridegan said at the press conference. “We are here today and feel a lot of emotions. We are very relieved to know that two of the people behind my husband’s murder are now behind bars and no longer pose a threat to our family. We are also still angry, angry that they are free.

Jared Bridegan’s widow, Kirsten, and their children

Nelson said the investigation is ongoing and many details are still being held because of it.

Mario Fernandez Saldana is represented by Jesse Dreicer. He said he was ready to represent his client. Dreicer confirmed that he was his attorney before the arrest and does not know when his client will be transferred to Jacksonville.

Hank Coxe is Shanna Gardner-Fernandez’s attorney. He told News4JAX: “I think it’s inappropriate to comment publicly on an unfinished business.”

The Office of the Public Defender represents Henry Tenon. News4JAX also left a message for Chief Public Defender Charlie Cofer.

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.


How investigators say they untangled conspiracy to kill Jared Bridegan

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