Second suspect arrested in slaying of Jacksonville Beach businessman
A second suspect has been arrested in the brutal ambush murder of Jacksonville Beach father Jared Bridegan in front of his young daughter in February 2022.
That 34-year-old suspect, Mario Enrique Fernandez Saldana, is the current husband of Bridegan's ex-wife. The first suspect, Henry Arthur Tenon, 61, pleaded guilty Thursday to committing the murder. He most recently lived in a home that Saldana once owned.
Flanked by Bridegan's widow, sister and brother as well as State Attorney Melissa Nelson, Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Smith said investigators spent 13 months of work in Bridegan's "cold-blooded" murder to reach this point. Then Nelson confirmed that the single link between the victim, Bridegan, and Tenon, the first suspect, was Saldana — who is married to Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, Bridegan's ex-wife.
Nelson said Tenon has "admitted that he in fact was the shooter."
"As part of Tenon's plea agreement with the state of Florida, he has agreed to testify truthfully against those he worked with to murder Jared Bridegan," Nelson said. "As I said in our last update, we know Henry Tenon did not act alone. And Tenon has confirmed this to be true. Tenon's cooperation has both corroborated evidence collected during the investigation and provided additional evidence against Saldana in his role in the planning and execution of Jared's murder."
An emotional Kirsten Bridegan said she and the family are feeling "many emotions" at news of the second arrest.
"We have great relief knowing that two of the people behind my husband's murder are behind bars and no longer a threat to our family. We are also still angry — angry that they were walking free while we were grappling with the reality that Hared wouldn't be here," she said.
"We have fought hard for the truth, and the world knows what we have known all along, that Jared was truly an innocent victim," she said. "Since Day 1, those in charge of the investigation promised us that they would be relentless in their pursuit of accountability and justice, and they have been."
The night of the murder
Bridegan was driving Feb. 16, 2022 with his now 3-year-old daughter in a car seat when he stopped to remove a tire from the road near the exit of The Sanctuary neighborhood, police said. This was the regular road he took when making scheduled visits to his twin 10-year-old son and daughter.
But as he exited his vehicle, Bridegan was shot multiple times as his young daughter watched from inside the car, police said. During the news conference about Tenon's arrest in January, Smith called it "a planned and target ambush and murder."
Security video from nearby homes and businesses showed a dark-colored Ford F-150 with tan or brown running boards, likely a 2004 to 2008 model, leaving the area. Police were looking for information about that truck, which had a silver toolbox in the back.
Bridegan, an executive with Microsoft, had a long and bitter divorce with about 300 entries and motions in the court file, according to the Florida Times-Union. Attention quickly swirled around former wife Gardner-Fernandez and Saldana, her husband. Gardner-Fernandez then hired a prominent defense attorney to fend off the media due to photos of her and her children at a local park and implications she was somehow involved with the plot, the Times-Union said.
"My kids are 10. They understand everything that is going on," she told the Times-Union in June. "They see this and they are scared, terrified and struggling."
Arrest, then arrest
Tenon was initially charged in January with conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree murder with a weapon, accessory after the fact to a capital felony and child abuse, Nelson said. Then some people-finder online research tools listed the 5200 block of Potomac Avenue as his home, which property records show the ex-wife's husband owned from 2017 to October 2022, the Times-Union reported. On Thursday, Nelson confirmed that Tenon was a former tenant of Saldana's.
Saldana was booked into the Orange County Jail on Thursday after Jacksonville Beach police joined ATF agents and Orange County sheriff's deputies in his arrest, and he will be extradited to Jacksonville, Nelson said. His arrest warrant was issued just after Tenon pleaded guilty to Bridegan's murder. That was followed by a Duval County grand jury returning a first-degree murder indictment against Saldana, Nelson said.
Saldana's indictment also includes charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit a capital felony and child abuse. The last charge is because the Bridegan's young daughter was "directly in harm's way when her father was shot and killed in front of her" as she sat in the vehicle, Nelson said. That murder charge is punishable by death or life in prison, Nelson said.
Saldana's arrest warrant offers details about the fatal shooting on Sanctuary Boulevard, describing it as a "targeted murder." It details how Bridegan came upon the tire in the road and opened his door to move it. It states that the tire, not seen by security cameras nearby until just before he drove up, was put there "in order to get Bridegan to stop his vehicle."
The warrant also states that the discarded tire and wheel belonged to a 2004 Ford F-150 pickup truck, which police had been seeking. But much of the warrant is blacked out, other than stating that the link between Bridegan and Tenon was Saldana.
The investigation continues
Nelson would not speak about motive or any further arrests that might will occur, saying nothing more will be released as Tenon provides more information about the case.
"Our investigation remains active and ongoing, and it has not stopped today with the arrest," Nelson said. "We all remain committed to seeking the truth, and that is the entire truth, and holding accountable every single individual involved in the murder."
Kirsten Bridegan said she has hope it will all wrap up someday.
"Justice for Jared will not be stopped, and we will not be silenced," she said. "We know there is still a long way to go before all those responsible are truly held accountable. But today is a very significant day for our family."
Anyone with further information in the case can contact the Jacksonville Beach Police Department at (904) 270-1661, First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-8477 (TIPS) or the ATF at Tampatips@atf.gov.