Detective: Shanna Gardner used code names, plotted murder for years

Posted at 4:31 PM, May 15, 2024

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Court TV) — Testimony during a bond hearing on Wednesday revealed that a woman accused of plotting her ex-husband’s murder had been talking about wanting him to die for more than five years.

Shanna Gardner enters court

Shanna Gardner enters court for a hearing on May 15, 2024. (Court TV/Pool)

Shanna Gardner appeared in court on Wednesday asking to be released on bond pending her trial. She and her husband, Mario Fernandez Saldana, are facing a potential death sentence if convicted in the murder-for-hire of Gardner’s ex, Jared Bridegan. Bridegan, a Microsoft executive, was gunned down on Feb. 16, 2022. At the time of his murder, Bridegan and Gardner were divorced but were embroiled in an ongoing custody battle.

Jacksonville Beach Police Detective Christopher Johns testified about his investigation into the plot to kill Bridegan, which he said went back to 2015. Text messages between Gardner and her friend, Kimberly Jensen, were entered into evidence that showed the pair using code words like “funeral potatoes” and “doing magic” to discuss a potential murder-for-hire. Gardner sent her friend texts saying, “I would happily love to see him get a lethal injection” and “I’m not even joking, I want him gone.” Johns testified that Jensen reached out to contacts on Gardner’s behalf, asking if they could “do magic” or find “a guy who does a permanent disappearing act.” Bridegan was frequently referred to with the nickname “Stupid” in the texts.

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In the text messages, Gardner revealed to her friend that her husband had been stalking Bridegan — following him to learn his habits with the intention of killing him. Referring to them as “missed opportunities,” Gardner told her friend that there were multiple times when Saldana had been “close enough to touch” Jared, without the victim having any idea. During cross-examination, Gardner’s attorney, Jose Baez, argued that Gardner’s talking about wanting her ex to die was hyperbole.

Johns testified that during his investigation into the case, multiple people came forward to say they had been solicited by Gardner to kill Bridegan. A tattoo shop owner allegedly told officers that Gardner told him, “She needed someone to shut Jared up” and asked if he knew anyone.

Saldana, who was not present at the bond hearing, was alleged to have approached the third man charged in the murder, Henry Tenon, “a number of times” before successfully convincing him to be the triggerman in the murder. Prosecutors laid out at the hearing that Tenon was paid $150,000 from a trust fund managed by Saldana and Gardner and funded by Gardner’s parents.