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Witness says Hudson slayings suspect asked her to lie about his whereabouts

CHICAGO (MCT) — A close friend of William Balfour testified Wednesday that Balfour asked her to lie about his whereabouts just hours after prosecutors allege he killed three members of singer Jennifer Hudson’s family.

Brittany Acoff-Howard, 21, was the second state witness to accuse Balfour of trying to arrange an alibi to distance him from the Chicago South Side neighborhood when Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew were shot to death.

In sometimes tense testimony, Acoff-Howard told jurors she became friends with Balfour in 2008. On the day of the slayings in October 2008, Acoff-Howard said she heard a rumor that there had been a shooting at the Hudson home on South Yale Avenue and called Balfour, whose estranged wife lived there.

“He told me he didn’t know what I was talking about,” she said.

Four minutes later, Balfour called back, she said.

“I’m not sure of the whole conversation, but I know he did ask me, ‘Brittany, if anybody asks you, I’ve been out west all day,’ ” Acoff-Howard testified.

Pretrial court filings identified Acoff-Howard as a potentially hostile witness for the prosecution who had failed a polygraph test in preparation for trial. On Wednesday, Assistant State’s Attorney James McKay stood next to the witness stand and glared at her as she testified that she could not remember anything else that Balfour said in their three-minute conversation that day.

McKay finished by asking Acoff-Howard about her prom dress that Balfour had helped purchase. She agreed he did nice things for her.

“He asked you to lie for him, didn’t he?” McKay asked.

“Yes,” Acoff-Howard replied curtly.

Balfour, 30, is accused of fatally shooting Hudson’s brother, Jason Hudson, 29, and mother Darnell Donerson, 57, in the family’s Englewood home before kidnapping and killing her nephew, 7-year-old Julian King. He was allegedly angry over the breakup of his marriage to Hudson’s sister, Julia, his estranged wife, and jealous she was seeing another man.

Acoff-Howard’s mother, Lecretia Acoff, also testified that Balfour had called her while she was at work at a fast-food restaurant about 3:15 p.m. that day and asked her what had happened on Yale Avenue. Acoff said she had already heard news of the slayings from a friend but played dumb with Balfour.

“I told him I didn’t know. He needs to call his wife (Julia),” Acoff said.

In other testimony, Balfour’s former parole agent, Kenneth Drayton, said he was supposed to meet with Balfour for a routine checkup on the afternoon of the slayings. At the time, Balfour was on parole for a 1999 attempted murder conviction, a fact jurors don’t know.

Drayton testified Balfour called him about 3 p.m. — an hour after they were supposed to meet — and said he was going to have to reschedule.

“He said he was on the West Side of Chicago baby-sitting,” Drayton said.

Also Wednesday, Illinois State Police forensic analyst Pauline Gordon told jurors that the alleged murder weapon, a .45-caliber Sig Sauer pistol that had belonged to Jason Hudson, had a small amount of DNA that was not Balfour’s. She explained that DNA would likely not be present if the killer was wearing gloves or had wiped off the weapon. DNA can also degrade quickly if it is exposed to weather, she said.

The gun was found in a weedy vacant lot about a block from where the SUV containing Julian’s body had been left.

Gordon also tested swabs from the SUV’s door handles, the rear-view mirror, gear shift and other areas that might have been touched by the killer as well as pop bottles, a cigarette butt and used tissue that were found strewn about the vehicle. But none of the samples matched Balfour’s DNA, she said.

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