Hudson Murder Trial: Key Players in the Case

Murder trial in slaying of Jennifer Hudson's family began today.

ByABC News
April 23, 2012, 3:46 PM

April 23, 2012— -- intro: Nearly four years after allegedly killing Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew, William Balfour's murder trial is underway.

Click here to read coverage of the trial's first day.

Balfour faces three counts of first-degree murder for the killings and if convicted would be sentenced to a mandatory life sentence. The 30-year-old was estranged from his wife and Jennifer's sister, Julia Hudson, at the time of the murders.

While Jennifer Hudson has come a long way from her roots up on Chicago's South Side, she has pledged to attend every day of the trial, which could take up to one month. With an Oscar-winner in attendance, the case has drawn a slew of media attention. Here's a quick list of the players involved.

quicklist: 1 title: Jennifer Hudsontext: Jennifer Hudson rose to fame first as a contestant on "American Idol" and then as "Effie" the resilient heroine of "Dreamgirls." Hudson won an Oscar for her role as the plus-sized Motown singer in 2007 and a Grammy the following year.

However, Hudson's Cinderella story was cut short with the horrific murders of her mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew , allegedly carried out by her brother-in-law William Balfour in October 2008.

Four years after the tragedy, Hudson continues to sing and act, most recently in the new "Three Stooges" film. Hudson also gave birth to a son in 2009.

Hudson has pledged to interrupt her successful career to attend every day of the murder trial and was the first witness to be called to the stand. Dressed in black, Hudson spoke softly about her family and broke down occasionally on the witness stand.

"None of us wanted her to marry William," she said of her sister's marriage to defendant William Balfour, her voice cracking with emotion. "We did not like how he treated her."media: 16080549

quicklist: 2 title: William Balfourtext: Balfour, 30, is facing three counts of first-degree murder for killing three members of Jennifer Hudson's family including her mother Darnell Donerson, 57, her brother Jason Hudson, 29, and 7-year-old nephew Julian King, who was also Balfour's stepson. Balfour was estranged from Jennifer's sister, Julia Hudson at the time of the killings.

Prosecutors say he became enraged after seeing balloons that were given to Julia by a new boyfriend.

Balfour, whose street name is "Flex," grew up in Chicago where he became a member of the violent Gangster Disciples gang, according to court documents. At age 18, Balfour was convicted of attempted murder, vehicular hijacking and possession of a stolen vehicle. After serving seven years he was released in 2006. media: 16195339

quicklist: 3 title: Julia Hudsontext: Julia Hudson is the older sister of Jennifer Hudson. It was Julia who first found her mother's body. Initially Julia was concerned that her mother had fallen, then she saw blood and ran screaming from the house before calling 911.

Julia's estranged husband William Balfour is accused of the killings, which also claimed the life of Julia's brother Jason Hudson and her son, 7-year-old Julian King.

According to prosecutors Balfour threatened Julia before the killings saying, "If you leave me, I'll kill you. I'll kill your family first and then I'll kill you."media: 16195362

quicklist: 4 title: Jason Hudsontext: Jason Hudson was the brother Jennifer Hudson. He was killed at age 29 along with his mother and nephew in October 2008 allegedly by William Balfour.

According to prosecutors, Jason was shot twice in the head as he was lying in bed. The murder weapon, a .45-caliber pistol, was allegedly stolen from Jason by Balfour months prior. media: 16195401

quicklist: 5 title: Darnell Donerson text: Jennifer Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, was the first person killed when William Balfour allegedly entered her home on Oct. 24, 2008.

Hudson told the court on Monday that she became worried about her mother after she didn't receive her usual text from Donerson at 9 a.m. Donerson was found in her home by her other daughter Julia Hudson.

According to prosecutors Julia initially was worried that Donerson had fallen, but then after seeing blood she ran from the house and called 911. media: 16195411

quicklist: 6 title: Julian Kingtext: Jennifer Hudson's nephew, Julian King, was just 7 years old when he was killed allegedly by his estranged stepfather William Balfour.

King, nicknamed Juicebox, was found in the back of his uncle's SUV. He had been shot in the back of his head. media: 16195448

quicklist: 7title: James McKay text: A veteran at the Cook County State's Attorney office, McKay is the lead prosecutor in the case against William Balfour. McKay started out the first day of the murder trial by describing the threats Balfour allegedly made against Julia Hudson and her family. McKay stated that Balfour threatened that he would kill Julia and Julia's family if she ever left him. media: 16196785