JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – It’s been a month since someone shot and killed a father of four at close range in Jacksonville Beach. His 2-year-old daughter was just feet away in the back seat.
Detectives believe Jared Bridegan, a St. Johns County resident, was targeted and ambushed.
For this first time, Bridegan’s widow is publicly sharing her family’s pain as detectives search for the killer. She hopes it will convince someone to come forward with information about her husband’s murder.
GALLERY: Photos of Jared Bridegan & family members
“Even if you don’t care about our family, someone is out there that did this,” said a teary-eyed Kirsten Bridegan. “They didn’t care that there was a child in the car. They didn’t care that he was a great guy. They just shot him. Everyone should care about that.”
She shared pictures and videos with News4JAX, describing her husband as a family man who built his life around his four children.
He leaves behind twins, Abby and Liam, 9, from a previous marriage. Jared and Kirsten Bridegan share Bexley, 2, who was in his SUV at the time of the shooting but not hurt, and London, who is 7-months-old.
“The minute you met him you just fell in love with the kind of guy he was,” Kirsten Bridegan said. “He honestly was the best dad. Whenever I needed a break, he would scoop up the kids, take them out, take them outside and gave me a minute to catch my breath.”
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Their world stopped on the night of Feb. 16. Jared Bridegan had just dropped off his older two children at their mother’s house in Jacksonville Beach when he stopped on a wooded stretch of Sanctuary Way near J. Turner Butler Boulevard on his way home. Police believe he was trying to move a tire that was in the road. Detectives believe that tire may have been part of the setup for his slaying.
“There is a reason he was stopped here,” said Jacksonville Beach Police Det. Sgt. David Young. “There’s a reason there’s a tire in the middle of the road. So we think that in that aspect, we think that he was targeted.”
Young noted it was close-range and cold-blooded.
“He was right at the driver’s door and we believe that the shooter was less than four feet, three feet from him,” Young said. “It was specific, [Jared Bridegan] used this route all the time. Whoever [killed him] knew the route.”
Neighbors’ surveillance cameras from the Sanctuary subdivision caught the sound of several gunshots just before 8 p.m. Detectives on the case told News4JAX they believe someone ambushed him at close range, firing several times, killing him near the driver’s door. His SUV’s hazard flashers were on and his two-year-old daughter was in the back seat. She wasn’t hurt. Good Samaritans and police cared for her at the scene and took her to the police station.
Kirsten Bridegan said she had a gut feeling when Jared Bridegan didn’t return home around 8:30 p.m. like usual. She couldn’t reach him. So she started driving his route.
“I took the route we normally take to get to the beach,” she said. “And I kept calling his phone. And then one of the policemen answered it. And that’s when I knew my gut feeling was right and something was really wrong. And I asked if my husband was OK and I was just told to drive to the police station. And I asked it again the same thing just come to the police station. But that my daughter was OK.”
Jacksonville Beach Police and federal agents with the ATF are working tirelessly to solve the case. Last week, they released video of a dark colored 2004 to 2008 Ford F-150 pickup truck. It has running boards, brown trim and a silver toolbox. Investigators said they are exploring all options, looking at potential motives, and not ruling out anyone as a suspect.
“Because it is an ongoing investigation there’s a lot we can’t talk about,” said Jacksonville Beach Police Sgt. Tonya Tator. “But I can tell you that every day they are making a little bit of progress. Because of the information that’s coming in, the information that they’ve obtained through their investigation, they’ve been working tirelessly for this family in this case and they’re going to keep working that way until we figure out who committed this heinous crime.”
She said tips were coming in and detectives are using every resource available, but they need help from the public. Investigators are determined.
Kirsten Bridegan said she has no idea why anyone would want to kill her husband, especially in front of his daughter. She said she was not aware of any threats or disputes to foreshadow his murder.
“Nothing, I rack my brain, I stay up, I don’t get much sleep,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “I stay up all night long thinking ‘Why? Was there any hint that this was coming?’ There is none.”
Jared Bridegan was a software engineer at Microsoft. He graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville and went to school in Utah, his wife said. He has family throughout Florida.
She said it’s difficult to carry on, but she does it for their children, including his twins from a previous marriage, whom she said she loves as her own.
“His kids deserve to know why their dad is not here. His kids deserve to know why we’re not all together anymore,” she said. “They need answers. And I can’t give them to them by myself. My daughter, Bexley, was there. She has some really hard days and some good days. She just has a lot of questions and some I can’t answer. She asked me where daddy is. She asked me why he isn’t here. And I just tell her daddy’s body did not get better. He’s with God. She asked me why. And I just say someone hurt him and we don’t know anything else that the police are trying to help us. And as a parent that’s a really hard conversation to have over and over again with your kid.”
Jared Bridegan’s loved ones are begging for anyone with any information to do the right thing so they can have peace and can feel safe once again.
“If you know anything please say it,” Kirsten Bridegan pleaded. “Whether it’s for the money or just to help me and his four kids get answers. Or just because you’re a basic human being. Please say something. No one deserves to go through this, especially not Jared.”
She wanted to thank everyone who supported Jared Bridegan’s family during this difficult time, noting it hasn’t gone unnoticed. The cards, flowers, toys and food have been helpful.
“I just want to say ‘thank you,’” she said. “I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to thank everyone individually so hopefully they can see this and know that we are grateful for the support that we have received so far.”
Police said solving the case is their number one priority. First Coast Crime Stoppers is offering a $13,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. A separate ATF reward is worth $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
The tip line for First Coast Crime Stoppers is 1-866-845-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous.
Jacksonville Beach detectives can be reached at 904-270-1661.
ATF agents are taking information at 888-ATF-TIPS or ATFtips@atf.gov.