PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Friends say a woman wanted to end her marriage before her husband murdered her and their three kids inside a Phoenix home on Wednesday. According to investigators, 44-year-old Jasen Michael Hudgens killed his wife, 40-year-old Marla Jordan Hudgens, and their three kids, 3-year-old Christopher Hudgens, and 6-month-old twins, Gwen and Faye. Jasen then shot himself in the head.
Marla worked at the Phoenix branch of the law firm Lewis Roca. The company released a statement, calling her a passionate lawyer and advocate for her clients. “More than that, she was a loving mother and loyal friend,” Lewis Roca said.
Friends say one of the most heartbreaking things was learning Marla struggled with infertility and was overjoyed bringing her three babies into the world. But her friends said their marriage had become unhappy, though they could never have imagined something like this would happen. “There’s so many of us right now that don’t know how we are going to go on without her,” said her best friend, Khanh Andersen. “She had a professional confidence that I admired so much,” added her best friend, Brett Hagerty.
Andersen and Hagerty said they had just talked to Marla Tuesday night, planning upcoming concerts and cruises together, with no inkling that anything was about to happen. “What do you mean all of them? Like, what do you mean all of them?” said Andersen. “We knew that that marriage was likely ending,” added Hagerty.
Hagerty said it was Marla who wanted to end their marriage, but they never thought Jasen was violent. “We never had any indication from her that she felt scared or threatened or unsafe,” said Hagerty.
This comes as Marla was dealing with another tragedy in her life. “Her sister had just died by suicide just two months ago. We literally just had Lexa’s celebration of life on Friday,” said Andersen. “Her sister’s memorial was last Friday and Jasen didn’t go,” Hagerty added.
While there may have been some strife in the marriage, both Andersen and Hagerty struggle to understand – why the kids? And even more so because the Hudgens’ struggled with infertility for years. Marla’s young kids were absolutely everything to her. “She did everything she could to bring them into existence,” said Hagerty. “She called them her hot dog and her hamburger because one was long and skinny and one was short and round,” Andersen said, laughing. “To think of her babies, and how they won’t even get to know how big of a person their mother was and they won’t get to experience it all because they didn’t get enough time either, it’s just too much.”
Marla was not only known for being a prominent attorney, first in Las Vegas and then Phoenix, but she was extremely involved with the community with charity groups and as a soccer coach. Both Andersen and Andersen said Marla would want them to say that domestic violence can lead to devastating loss, and they said they will fight for domestic violence victims just as Marla would have.
A preliminary police report says the babysitter arrived at the home on Augusta Avenue, near 7th and Northern avenues, just after 8 a.m. and saw Jasen and Marla dead. Multiple police officers and firefighters were then dispatched to the home. Because of a strong odor of gas, a hazmat crew cleared the house first. Police say there were open propane tanks inside and a gas line that was not attached to a kitchen appliance. It took hours for crews to secure the house and get rid of the gas so police could get inside safely. Detectives then discovered all the bodies.
Fire Captain Todd Keller explains it as devastating. “We had close to 40 to 50 fire personnel on that scene, and we did send multiple members home,” Keller said. “We are human too. This effects us.”
Keller says with these tough calls, the department will connect the first responders to their peer support program. It’s an outlet for these men and women to cope. “They will get a member assigned to a peer support team. That is somebody they can talk to one on one, and that peer support member can get them plugged in to the right resources and anything that they need.”
Phoenix Fire also has a community assistance program where members will go into the neighborhood and help people who live nearby or knew the family.
Police called it a “complete tragedy.” “Not only is this devastating to the first responders that had to respond and witness what’s inside, but this neighborhood is very close-knit including the extended loved ones and family members that are related to this home and this residence,” said Sgt. Melissa Soliz with Phoenix Police Department. Police said the four victims had “obvious signs of trauma.”
Neighbors in the area are still grieving from the horrors that took place inside that house. “It’s been difficult for me to process it. I know its been difficult for all of us to kind of understand what’s going on. I think we hear about it on news and other places but for it to happen to close to us is just a whole nother level of trying to understand and grieve,” said Hailey LeBlanc, a neighbor.
“Learning about this, it’s just shocking,” a friend of Jasen Hudgens told Arizona’s Family.
Below is the full statement from the law firm Lewis Roca:
“We are overwhelmed with grief at the loss of our friend, colleague and partner, Marla Hudgens, and her family. We are in complete shock and are only just beginning to process this awful tragedy. Marla was a passionate lawyer and advocate for her clients. She was an equally passionate leader who worked tirelessly to make our firm a better place. But more than that, Marla was a loving mother and loyal friend. The impact of this loss on the community and on our firm is immeasurable.”
SRP confirms that Jasen Hudgens was an employee of the utility company and released the following statement on Friday:
“SRP is aware of the serious situation that involved Jasen Hudgens, an employee who worked at SRP. As it is an active investigation, we must refer you to the Phoenix Police Department. Our thoughts are with the family, friends and everyone affected by this heartbreaking situation.”
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