2 charged in St. Augustine woman's murder that was caught on video

Man, woman charged in Jordie Hudson's death; document says killing was recorded

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The moments leading up to the murder of a St. Augustine woman whose remains were found Tuesday were caught on surveillance video, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Two people have been charged in the stabbing death of Jordie Hudson, who was last seen nearly two weeks ago, St. Augustine Police Chief Loran Lueders said at a news conference Tuesday night.

According to the document outlining the charges against John Harry Branson III, Hudson, 46, left the Giggling Gator on King Street about 2:45 a.m. April 9 with a man believed to be Branson.

Surveillance video from two bed-and-breakfasts caught Branson and Hudson walking at 88 Cedar St. at about 3:30 a.m. April 9. An altercation can be seen between the two, and Branson is seen leaving the area at 3:45 a.m. Hudson is not seen leaving, according to the document.

Branson is seen returning to the scene about 6:30 a.m. in his mother's blue car with a woman, later identified as Christeen Janelle Thomas. The video shows Branson putting Hudson's body in the back seat behind the driver's seat, while Thomas acts as a lookout, the document says.

Hudson, 46, an artist who had several exhibits throughout North Florida, was not reported missing until April 14. Police responded to a suspicious incident on Cedar Street the next day, which led investigators to believe that Hudson might have been the victim of foul play, Lueders said.

Police found a steak knife, blood spatter and Hudson's sunglasses at the scene of the altercation seen in the surveillance footage, 

Police interviewed Thomas, who told them that Branson took Hudson's body back to his home on County Road 208 and removed it from the car. She said she saw Branson attempt to clean the car by spraying down the floor mats with a garden hose.

Lueders said that after Thomas was interviewed, an arrest warrant was issued for Branson and a search warrant was also served on Branson's home on County Road 208.

Branson and Thomas led investigators to human remains believed to belong to Hudson, which were found concealed underground near the home.

Branson, 38, is charged with second-degree murder and Thomas, 29, is charged with accessory to murder, police said.

They were both booked into the St. Johns County Jail. 

"Our hearts go out to the family of Jordie Hudson," Lueders said.

Lueders said the vehicle associated with the crime was found on Monday, but the owner, Branson's mother, was not involved.

News4Jax learned that Branson has a criminal background, which includes arrests for drug-related charges, violence, grand theft and dealing in stolen property. 

Thomas was also charged with fraud and larceny on Tuesday, jail records show. She has one previous charge of domestic battery, but prosecutors dropped the charge because of lack of evidence.

'Cutting edge' artist will be missed

Rob DePiazza hosted a show for Hudson at his gallery, Space Eight, in 2012.

He described his friend's artwork as “very cutting-edge and extraordinary, very original and very influential” with a dark and raw tone.

“I think her talent, she kept hidden. I think she was extraordinarily talented, but she wasn’t interested in commercial success," DePiazza said.

He said he talked to Hudson a few months ago.

“She was diagnosed with a terminal illness,” DePiazza said. “She really wasn’t expected to live that long, so at the time this was expected to be her last exhibition.”

DePiazza said he is still coming to terms with how his friend lost her life.

“I think the murder part was just unbelievable,” he said. “(She was) really eclectic, a very strong-willed person, very dynamic and creative.”

Friends and family said they are in the process of creating a memorial service for Hudson that incorporates her artwork.