NEW YORK — Just a month ago, a bubbly Jennifer Hudson — who had been striking gold with just about everything she touched — was running down the list of all the projects that she expected would soon dominate her life.
Already an Oscar-winning actress, the 25-year-old was about to release her first album, which would become an instant best-seller, and a new movie, “The Secret Life of Bees.” But the entertainer saw so much more in her future.
“I am planning on touring,” she said, rattling off a list of her upcoming priorities. “There’s more films and more music and stuff like that … I want to start a fashion line as well, start writing music.”
There were also plans of a big wedding to new fiancé David Otunga.
“It’s gonna be a production,” she gushed. “I have so many visions for it right now — I get to put that together.”
But on Monday, Hudson’s priority was to identify the body of her 7-year-old nephew Julian — apparently the third victim in a killing spree that had already claimed her mother and brother. She had identified their bodies a couple of days before.
Her Hollywood goals now seem a world away. After suffering such a devastating blow, it’s unclear when — if ever — she will reclaim them.
“This is really something no one can really deal with, and you never fully recover from something like this,” said Harvey Mason, who has written and produced songs for Hudson and considers her a friend. “But she’s a very strong person, and she’s got a great heart, and I’m just sad something like this has had to enter into her life.”
Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, were killed in the family’s home in a homicide police have described as domestic in nature. Her sister Julia’s 7-year-old son, Julian, was declared missing, along with a white truck taken from the scene.
On Monday, after a weekend of pleas from both Julia and Jennifer Hudson — who had offered $100,000 Sunday for information leading to the boy’s safe return — police found the truck and the body of a 7-year-old child inside who was later confirmed to be Julian. Authorities declared his death a homicide Tuesday but would not say how long he had been dead.
Police have been questioning William Balfour, the estranged husband of Julia Hudson who is in custody. Balfour is not the boy’s father and has not been charged in the slayings.
A convicted felon, Balfour was arrested after police allegedly found crack cocaine in his car in June, but authorities declined to return him to prison on a parole violation, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Balfour served seven years for attempted murder and vehicular hijacking.
Although Hudson has spoken out from her MySpace.com page, thanking fans for their support, she has been in seclusion in Chicago. All public events that she had scheduled over the next week or so have been canceled, and a planned video shoot for her new single “If It Isn’t Love,” which was to take place starting Monday in Los Angeles, was also abandoned.
The triple homicide came as Hudson’s career continued on the white-hot streak that began with her Oscar-winning role in the movie “Dreamgirls.” The singer had first come to prominence as a big-voiced finalist on “American Idol” in 2005, but floundered in her career.
Without a record deal and only no-name producers to work with, she even began to wonder if a music career was ever going to happen for her.
“After ‘Idol,’ I didn’t have a manager, I didn’t have an agent, none of that,” she said. “I just had random producers.”