Her mother, brother, and seven-year-old nephew were killed back in 2008.
The world watched in awe as she competed for the top spot on American Idol back in 2004. She became a fan favorite and even though she didn’t win, her career has continued to blossom into international superstardom. However, tragedy struck in 2008 when Jennifer’s 57-year-old mother, 29-year-old brother, and seven-year-old nephew were found murdered in her hometown of Chicago. An investigation that would reveal an unlikely suspect: Jennifer’s sister’s estranged husband, William Balfour.
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It would be four more years before Balfour was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, and through the harrowing circumstances, Jennifer has done her best to honor her family members with grace. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Jennifer shared memories of her mother while opening up about the tragic events that occurred 11 years ago.
“She used to tell us: ‘No matter what you put your mind to, you can do.’ She said: ‘I think you can act.’ Or, ‘Jenny, I think you can draw.’ I’m like, ‘Whatever, Momma,'” Jennifer recalled. “One of my other favorite things she’d say is, ‘Whatever makes you happy. As long as you’re happy, Momma’s happy.’ and who’s to say what you should and shouldn’t be? You know your value. Just because you value one thing, someone else may value another thing and you should respect that. And my mother – I can just see her saying all that.”
When thinking about her late family members, Jennifer said “of course you still get sad” but she relies on her mother’s wisdom to help her through. “I think I attribute that first to God, next to [the fact that] when you experience trauma, it comes and goes. It’s always there. But it’s a matter of how you deal with it,” she said. “. It would be worse, to me, not to press forward. I’m hearing my brother’s voice say, ‘Jenny, knock it off!’ He would be angry at me for giving up. She prepared us. She would say, ‘You know, I’m not always going to be here and I want you all to be able to make it.’ She used to say, without family, you have nothing, which is why it’s so important to take care of family. So if I’m doing that, I know I’m pleasing my mother. As for my nephew; that’s where the Julian D King Gift Foundation comes from, because he was strong and very smart. So to live in a way that honors them is what presses you forward. Not to mention, thank God, that I have a child to live for.” View photos of Jennifer with her family below.