Man accused in Jared Bridegan murder plot appears in court for first time since wife’s arrest

For the first time since his wife’s arrest in the murder conspiracy to kill her ex-husband, the man accused of orchestrating the death of Jared Bridegan will appear in court Tuesday.

Mario Fernandez, 34, was arrested in March and charged with first-degree murder with a weapon, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit a capital felony and child abuse in connection with the shooting death of Bridegan, a 33-year-old St. Johns County father of four.

Bridegan, who was killed in February 2022 near the Sanctuary neighborhood in south Jacksonville Beach, was the ex-husband of Fernandez’s wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez. She was indicted in August and charged in what investigators say was a conspiracy to kill Bridegan that started as far back as May 2015.

Gardner-Fernandez was arrested in Washington state, where she had moved after Bridegan’s death. She is also charged with first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and child abuse.

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Prosecutors have announced that they will seek the death penalty against Fernandez and Gardner-Fernandez if they are convicted of Bridegan’s murder.

Bridegan’s murder received national attention in 2022 when he was gunned down while trying to move a tire blocking the road. Police said it was a targeted, cold-blooded attack.

Bridegan was shot multiple times at close range around 8 p.m. Feb. 16, 2022, while his then-2-year-old daughter was still strapped in her car seat a few feet away. She was not injured but her presence prompted the felony child abuse charges.

Investigators say Fernandez and Gardner-Fernandez planned the murder and paid Henry Tenon to execute Bridegan.

According to his indictment, Fernandez wrote three checks to Tenon, who has confessed to being the gunman. Fernandez had been Tenon’s landlord, and investigators say phone records revealed more than 70 calls between the men before and after Bridegan’s murder.

Tenon pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for fatally shooting Bridegan and has agreed to testify against the couple. Tenon faces a minimum of 15 years in prison as part of the plea agreement.

Fernandez’s indictment said he plotted the murder within the four months leading to Bridgegan’s death, but Gardner-Fernandez’s indictment said she may have been scheming to kill Bridegan as early as May 2015, a few months before their divorce was finalized.

Fernandez has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

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