Family remembers Jenni McGruder as murder trial begins


The trial has begun for the man charged with killing a Galesburg woman last Easter.

By Tuesday afternoon, four jurors had been selected. Jury selection is expected to continue Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors charged 29-year-old Jonathan Kelly with first degree murder for the death of 26-year-old Jenni McGruder. 
McGruder was shot and killed in a parking lot in the 100 block of Seminary Street in the early morning hours of April 1, 2018.

A fight reportedly broke out and three bullets were fired into a crowd at the time.

Police have said McGruder was an innocent bystander.

McGruder left behind two kids and her husband, Michael McGruder.

On Tuesday, Michael said he’s trying to be optimistic heading into the trial.

“Now it’s here it’s like I’m nervous,” he said. “We’re all emotional…we’re excited to hopefully find the justice but then we’re nervous at the same time. We don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s been a long year.”

But he says it’s also been an emotional rollercoaster.

“I can’t even explain that feeling every time I walk in that courtroom it’s just sadness, anger, frustration, it’s just everything,” he said. “If I had to choose between her and me I wish it would’ve just been me and I could’ve been gone because it just like she was such an awesome person, never hurt anybody. I would’ve sacrificed my life for her to stay. So it’s just like every single emotion that you could ever realize.”

Just short of the anniversary of McGruder’s death, life for Michael looks very different. He says in the beginning he was still in shock.

“When it first happened…if you talked to me I said I was just fine,” said McGruder. “Looking back I wasn’t just fine. I think it was around Thanksgiving break is when everything just hit me. And I just realized what my purpose was.”

While it’s been tough, he says he’s getting by with a lot of love and support from family and friends.

“We’ve kind of come very close together,” he said. “The kids have been the main focal point of the two families.”

He’s now raising his 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son as a single parent, learning to navigate life without his wife.

“We kind of just look at the good part of Mommy,” he said. “I try to keep the negative stuff away.”

With the help of a new project, Michael is making sure she’s never gone for good. Michael recently launched Jenni’s Realty Company, turning what he says was once the couple’s dream into a reality.

“That’s always been something that we wanted to do.”

The sign was designed using a photo of McGruder from their wedding day. 

“I drove around every single house with a sign out there and I could see her picture in the front yard and it’s just like it’s an awesome feeling,” he said.

The compnay gives him a chance to help others get a fresh start as he gets back on his own two feet. 

“I try to be the best person I can be in remembrance of her.”

Today, Michael is trying to look toward brighter days.

“I try to think about ‘what would she do? how would she react?'” he said. “I enjoy every day, I live day by day I don’t look to a year from now because I may not be here.”

And now he hopes this trial will shine a light on the justice McGruder deserves.

The trial is expected to span several days and carry over into next week.

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