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Jennifer Hudson Family Murders Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

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CHICAGO — Jennifer Hudson's brother-in-law pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges he shot to death the Oscar-winning actress's mother and brother and the 7-year-old son of his estranged wife.

William Balfour, 27, entered not guilty pleas to first-degree murder and home invasion charges after nodding to members of his family gathered in the last of three Cook County courtrooms he appeared in Tuesday.

Balfour is married to Jennifer Hudson's sister, Julia Hudson. He is charged in the October deaths of the sisters' mother, Darnell Donerson, their brother, Jason Hudson, and Julia Hudson's 7-year-old son, Julian King.

Prosecutors allege Balfour shot the three in a jealous rage because he was upset Julia Hudson had been dating another man.

Prosecutors first asked that the case be reassigned to another judge, though they did not give a reason. Presiding Judge Paul P. Biebel Jr. then reassigned the case and Balfour entered his plea in the final courtroom.

Defense attorney Joshua Kutnick said he plans to ask at Balfour's next court appearance, set for Jan. 27, that Balfour be moved from a state prison in Joliet to Cook County Jail to make it easier to meet with him.

The bodies of Donerson and Jason Hudson were discovered Oct. 24 at the family's South Side home. King's body was found three days later in an SUV on the city's West Side.

Balfour was arrested shortly after the killings and held in Chicago police custody for 48 hours _ the longest a person can be held without charges _ before his transfer to state custody on what authorities said was a parole violation. He was charged with murder last month.

A publicist for Jennifer Hudson declined to comment Tuesday. She was a finalist in the 2004 season of "American Idol" and won her Oscar in 2007 for her supporting role in "Dreamgirls."

The 27-year-old singer and actress released her self-titled debut album in the fall but hasn't made public appearances since the killings.

Hudson is expected to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, and she is nominated for four awards at the Feb. 8 Grammy Awards.