Blame game: What the suspects told police about Jared Bridegan’s murder

Posted at 7:56 AM, February 7, 2024

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Court TV) — A couple charged in the death of Microsoft executive Jared Bridegan accused the victim of having “ulterior motives” in his first marriage and suggested his second wife was the killer in interviews with police.

Shanna Gardner and Mario Fernandez Saldana are facing charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and child abuse in the death of Bridegan, who was shot and killed after dropping his two older children off at Gardner’s home on Feb. 16, 2022.

split screen of shanna gardner and mario fernandez saldana

Shanna Gardner and her husband, Mario Fernandez Saldana, are charged with murdering Gardner’s ex-husband, Jared Bridegan. (Court TV)

Gardner and Bridegan shared custody of the two children after their acrimonious divorce. Both had remarried, and Bridegan shared a young child with his second wife, Kirsten Bridegan. That young child was in the car when Bridegan was shot and killed.

Court TV obtained hundreds of pages of investigative reports in the case, which detail interviews with witnesses who saw Bridegan’s body lying in the road. Police say he was lured out of his car by a tire that had been placed in the road, and when he got out to investigate he was shot and killed. One witness who was driving behind Bridegan’s vehicle told officers that he thought Bridegan was going to change his tire and was about to offer to help when he saw “the victim was on the ground, twitching and moving.”

Kirsten Bridegan told officers that her husband’s relationship with Gardner ended after she had an affair with a personal trainer at a gym. She told officers, “The only person who had ill will towards him is Shanna and Mario.”

On March 1, police had their first formal interview with Gardner, who told them she had wondered if Bridegan had “ulterior motives” going into their marriage, knowing she came from money, and described their divorce as “traumatic” for her. When asked who she believed might have killed Bridegan, Gardner told officers “she did not know, she did not think it could be drugs or anything. She stated she can’t help but think maybe Kirsten had something to do with it, but she does not think about it all day.”

Describing her relationship with her new husband, Fernandez Saldana, Gardner told officers that the two got married quickly out of convenience after meeting in 2018.

“They did not know each other, very well, when they were married. She stated Mario wanted to help her with the kids, but the only way Jared would allow that is if they were married. … Gardner stated she knew they would not be a typical marriage, but for the convenience and built into a relationship.”

Gardner also mentioned to the police, “‘ The timing of all this is weird’ because she had just decided to ‘let go’ of the frustration and to just make the best of the situation. She stated in moments of anger she has thought about how much easier ‘this would be’ but ultimately, she wished no ill-will on [the Bridegans].”

Jared Bridegan profile picture

Jared Bridegan (Jacksonville Police Department)

When police interviewed Fernandez Saldana, he told them that he had been “really out of it” after taking medication the night of the murder. He admitted the fractious nature of the family dynamic, but told police “they could ‘just suck it’ and he doesn’t care if they are uncomfortable.”

One month later, Fernandez Saldana called the police and asked to come in to talk again. He told officers that he and Gardner were experiencing a “backlash” and blamed the victim’s wife for the negative impact to the children, Gardner’s parents and their bakery business.

“He further stated that people are starting to accuse Shanna of being involved. Fernandez stated, ‘The problem is, I am running out of (expletive) to give, and I am very petty.’ Fernandez stated he was going to go on Facebook Live and ‘let her (K. Bridegan) have it, because I want her to shut up.'”

Several witnesses named in the documents recount experiences that led them to be suspicious of the couple, including a former coworker of Gardner’s who said that at one point while working together in 2015, “Gardner relayed … (Fernandez) offered to get four guys and break into Bridegan’s residence in the middle of the night and ‘take care of him and nobody would ever know.'” A tattoo artist who interacted with Gardner in 2015 also recalled Gardner asking “if they know anyone who shuts people up.”

Investigators have linked Gardner and Fernandez Saldana to a third man, Henry Tenon, who pleaded guilty to Bridegan’s murder. Banking records show that First Choice Home Rentals, LLC, owned by Gardner and Fernandez Saldana, paid Tenon two checks totaling $5,000 on March 28, 2022 and one check for $5,000 on April 4, 2022.

If convicted, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for both Gardner and Fernandez Saldana. They’re expected in court Wednesday, Feb. 7.