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Chicago may be known as the “Second City.” But when it comes to violent homicides, it is second to none. The tragic murders of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew are all too familiar to those who dwell in the Windy City. To date, there have been close to 430 killings in 2008 and the city may well exceed 500 murders by year’s end, according to the Associated Press. In 1998, Chicago was dubbed the “murder capital of the country” and made international headlines after surpassing New York for the first time ever.

On Friday, Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis attended a city council budget hearing, which revealed that the $1.2 billion budget only permits for a hiring allotment of 200 officers for 2009 despite the loss of nearly 450 to 600 officers to retirement this year, reports the Associated Press. Since Weis took office earlier this year, there has been an increased murder rate and decreased arrests in Chicago compared to lower homicide rates in larger cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

These alarming statistics have hit home for the Hudson family. The body of Hudson’s 7-year-old missing nephew, Julian King, who had been reportedly kidnapped, was found in a missing sport utility vehicle nearly 14 miles from Jennifer’s mother’s South Side home. An amber alert went out on Friday after local authorities discovered the bodies of Hudson’s mom, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, who were shot dead in the home.

King’s body was found less than two days after his mother, Julia Hudson, and aunt Jennifer pleaded for his safe return. Jennifer used MySpace Celebrity to express her deepest gratitude for her fans’ continued support. She also offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to his safe return.

Julian’s stepfather, William Balfour, was detained over the weekend for questioning in connection with the case, a police spokesperson told CNN. He was subsequently transferred to prison on a parole violation charge. Balfour spent nearly seven years in prison for attempted murder, vehicular hijacking, and possessing a stolen vehicle.

Since the news broke Friday, there has been an outpouring of support from Jennifer’s family, friends and colleagues. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who recently directed Hudson’s latest project, “The Secret Life of Bees,” expressed her deepest sympathy: “This is an unspeakable tragedy,” she told “I am at a loss for words. My heart goes out to her, and I hope her many fans pray for her and wish her well.”

Even Tiffany “New York” Pollard, a self-professed nemesis of Jennifer’s who has reportedly made disparaging remarks about the actress after learning she was engaged to former “I Love New York 2” contestant David Otunga, made a YouTube video offering her condolences and an apology for her previous behavior.

Jennifer, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls,” recently released her self-titled debut album, which boasts the No. 1 single “Spotlight.” In “The Secret Life of Bees,” in theaters now, she costars with Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo and Dakota Fanning. Senator Barack Obama, in the home stretch of the hotly contested presidential election, also offered his condolences: “Michelle and I were absolutely heartbroken to learn about this unimaginable tragedy and we want Jennifer to know that she is in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time,” the Illinois senator said in a statement.



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