Slain Microsoft exec, suspects got into heated argument at Mormon church over kids’ hair, records show

Jared Bridegan thumb

Slain Microsoft executive Jared Bridegan got into an alleged argument with his ex-wife and her second husband – who are accused of plotting his murder in February 2022 – at a Mormon church before his death, a witness told police.

Bridegan was fatally shot in front of his car after coming across a tire in the middle of a secluded road, which prosecutors believe was a setup, in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. His then-2-year-old daughter was in the back seat at the time.

The victim’s ex-wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and child endangerment counts in connection with his death. She and her second husband, Mario Fernandez-Saldana, are accused of hiring a hitman to carry out the roadside murder.

While speaking with police after Bridegan’s murder, one witness told police she knew the victim through Gardner, whom she was friends with, and had “heard stories about the victim’s behavior from” Gardner, police wrote in February 2022.


Slain Microsoft

A family portrait of Jared and Kirsten Bridegan. (Infinite Focus Photography/Madeline Insignares)

The account is detailed in a witness statement included in hundreds of pages of documents police filed in Bridegan’s case that prosecutors released last week. 

The witness “explained her husband was involved in an altercation with the victim at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located in Neptune Beach.” Her husband was the church’s bishop. 


Jared Bridegan was gunned down Feb. 16 in Jacksonville, Florida

Jared Bridegan was gunned down Feb. 16, 2022 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, after he encountered this tire in the road. (Jacksonville Beach Police Department)

She would go on to describe Bridegan as a “hot head,” as well as “controlling and impatient.” She also knew that the couple had a “contentious” divorce and an ongoing custody battle.  

Several years before Bridegan’s death, Gardner and Fernandez-Saldana went to visit the bishop at the Mormon church in Neptune Beach so that he could advise their children on appropriate hairstyles, according to witnesses.


Mario Fernandez and Shanna Gardner-Fernandez pose together.

Mario Fernandez and his wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, smiling at a memorial for her slain ex-husband, Jared Bridegan, with whom she shares twins. They have been charged with Bridegan’s murder. (So Shelli)

Fernandez-Saldana told police in an interview that Gardner and Bridegan’s children “were afraid to ask Bridegan questions over a fear of rejection.” One of their daughters “once asked if she could dye her hair purple,” and Bridegan apparently told his daughter “she would not be accepted into the church if she had purple hair.”

“Fernandez Saldana took the children to a Bishop for the Church of Latter-Day Saints, who they happened to be friends with,” police wrote in their report.


Portraits of Jared Bridegan and Mario Fernandez

Mario Fernandez, right, was arrested for the murder of Slain Microsoft executive and father of four, Jared Bridegan. Fernandez is the new husband of Bridegan’s ex-wife Shanna Gardner-Fernandez. (GoFundMe/Jacksonville State Attorney’s Office)

Bridegan then traveled to the church and confronted the bishop, the suspect told police.

The bishop, who was also interviewed, told authorities that “he was finishing a counseling session with a member of the church when Bridegan confronted him.”

“Bridegan’s children wanted to change their hair styles [sic] and he disagreed with their choices. According to [the witness], Bridegan told his children their choice of hairstyles was sinful,” police wrote of the bishop’s account. “Due to this, Shannah Gardner approached [the bishop] so he could talk to the children. [The bishop] told the children it was ‘silly’ to call it sinful, but he explained the children needed to honor their parent’s decisions.”

Shanna Gardner-Fernandez mugshot after booked in Duval County jail in Florida

Shanna Gardner-Fernandez’s mugshot was released after she was extradited from Washington state to Florida to face accusations that she orchestrated her ex-husband’s murder. (Duval County Jail)

Bridegan apparently “had issues with the counseling session” and confronted the bishop. He also explained to the bishop that Gardner was no longer a member of the Latter-day Saints.


The bishop “informed Bridegan it was his congregation and Bridegan could not tell him who he was allowed to minister to,” at which point Bridegan apparently became agitated, and “wanted to step out to the parking lot and fight,” the bishop told police. The bishop threatened to call the Neptune Police Department, at which point Bridegan left, the witness said.

Jared, Kirsten and Bexley Bridegan pose in front of a ferris wheel.

Jared and Kirsten Bridegan with Bexley. He was gunned down Feb. 16, 2022, in north Florida. (Courtesy: Kirsten Bridegan)

In another account, Bridegan’s brother told police, “Gardner would probably feel like her children were being indoctrinated” and “would vent to Fernandez Saldana about the situation.”

The alleged argument is one of many accounts detailing Bridegan’s and Gardner’s vexed relationship and complicated custody battle over their three children. Bridegan has two twin daughters and a son with Gardner, as well as two children with his second wife of five years, Kirsten Bridegan. They split custody of the children 50-50.

Attorney Jose Baez appears in court alongside his client, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, at the Duval County Courthouse

Attorney Jose Baez appears in court alongside his client, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 3, 2023. Gardner-Fernandez was arraigned on charges relating to her alleged involvement in the orchestration of the murder of her ex-husband, Jared Bridegan. (Larry Paci for Fox News Digital)

Bridegan and Gardner met in Utah and married within two months of meeting. They moved across the country to Connecticut after the birth of their son because he had a heart condition, and they wanted to live closer to his doctor. 

Once his condition stabilized, they moved to Jacksonville to be closer to Bridegan’s parents. Less than a year after moving, the couple divorced, and Gardner left the Mormon church, according to an account from Bridegan’s brother.

Bridegan’s family and friends painted a very different picture of the victim than the descriptions Gardner, Fernandez-Saldana, the bishop and his wife gave to police. His brother described him as “a creative person who kept a close group of friends.” Kirsten told police her husband did not have “any disagreements with anyone and everyone likes him.”

“She said the only person who had ill will toward him is Shanna [Gardner] and Mario [Fernandez-Saldana],” police wrote.

In another interview with police, Fernandez-Saldana told police he was “running out of f—s to give” and is “very petty.” He told authorities later on that he and Gardner’s children had a “new normal” without Bridegan, but the victim’s wife, Kirsten, was “making it really difficult,” according to a report. Gardner described her second husband as a “like a pit bull” to police. 

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