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EXCLUSIVE: The Florida ex-wife of murdered Microsoft manager Jared Bridegan denied having an affair that ended their marriage — but her former personal trainer who says he was her one-time lover contradicted her claim in an interview with Fox News Digital.
As a Christmas gift in late 2014, Bridegan bought his then-wife, Shanna Gardner-Fernandez, a package of training sessions — but the fitness instructor said the relationship turned romantic weeks later.
The mysterious unsolved murder of 33-year-old Bridegan passed a milestone Tuesday with the six-month anniversary of his death.
He was gunned down Feb. 16 in front of his toddler daughter, Bexley, on a wooded stretch of road in an upscale suburb of north Florida.
The father of four left behind 10-year-old twins from his first marriage and two daughters, Bexley, 2, and London, 1, from his second.
“The past six months have been the hardest months of my life,” his widow, Kirsten Bridegan, 31, told Fox News Digital. “Jared was my sense of security and stability — he was my strength. All of that was gone in an instant because of the cowardly acts of others.”
Amid intensifying public scrutiny, Gardner-Fernandez, 35, gave a rare interview to local newspaper the Florida Times-Union in June in which she “denied published reports she had an affair that led to the end of the marriage.”
Gardner-Fernandez, the scion of a prominent Mormon family in Utah, also insisted she had nothing to do with the execution of her ex-husband, with whom she had been locked in a years-long bitter divorce and custody battle that only ended with his death.
The trainer said that Gardner-Fernandez, whose family owns the multimillion-dollar paper-craft company Stampin’ Up!, told him that she and Bridegan were separated for months when their sessions allegedly took an unprofessional turn.
“They weren’t really speaking,” said the instructor, who asked that his name be withheld to protect his privacy. “They were living in opposite ends of the house. She said she had grown up Mormon and didn’t want that [anymore].” Bridegan, on the other hand, remained a devout member of the Church of Latter-day Saints.
Bridegan’s family members said the pair didn’t separate until shortly before Gardner-Fernandez filed for divorce on Feb. 23, 2015 — after the design manager allegedly found sexually explicit messages between his then-wife and the man who claims he was her weight-lifting lover.
Friends said the doting father was willing to forgive the betrayal for the sake of their children — but Gardner-Fernandez wanted out, giving the judge a terse explanation for the split, “We don’t love each other anymore,” according to court papers.
The day after filing for divorce, Gardner-Fernandez visited a tattoo parlor to get a piercing and listed her trainer-turned-alleged paramour as her emergency contact, according to a waiver obtained by Fox News Digital. At the time, she and Bridegan were still living together, family court documents say.
Bridegan and Gardner-Fernandez both remarried — but the acrimony between them persisted, with the exes frequently butting heads over their conflicting approaches to raising their children.
A staffer at the twins’ private elementary school said Gardner-Fernandez openly disparaged Bridegan.
“The first time I met her she brought up the divorce and painted him in a not very good light,” she told Fox News Digital. “There was this disdain.”
Bridegan was ambushed after he dropped off the twins at Gardner-Fernandez’s house in Jacksonville Beach.
He was driving home with Bexley when he encountered a tire in the road. When he stepped out to move it, he was repeatedly shot.
A law enforcement source said that Gardner-Fernandez and her husband, Mario Fernandez, remain suspects — but officials are short on leads and have not publicly identified any suspects.
Gossip over the alleged affair even cropped up after the murder on a blog ran by Gardner-Fernandez’s mom, Shelli Gardner, called “So Shelli.”
Gardner posted photos of a memorial service held by her family for the slain father featuring smiling guests and a spread of gourmet taco fixings. The event was in lieu of the funeral, which the twins and Gardner-Fernandez did not attend.
In a since-deleted comment, a user identified as Jessica wrote, “Shanna CHEATED on Jared!”
Gardner responded, “That’s not true. That is what Jared told people.”
The trainer said his relationship with Gardner-Fernandez only lasted a few months because “she was going through a lot” with her breakup.
Former Manhattan prosecutor Daniel Bibb, who now works as a criminal defense lawyer, said the alleged affair is relevant to the murder probe.
“Assuming what the personal trainer said is true, any time a person demonstratively lies during a homicide investigation, it shows a consciousness of guilt,” he said. “It’s not about the affair, it’s that she may have lied when she knows she’s under scrutiny.”
Criminal defense attorney Henry Coxe III, who represents Gardner-Fernandez and her husband, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The investigation, which is being conducted by the Jacksonville Beach Police Department and the state attorney’s office for the Fourth Judicial District, is ongoing.
“We are constantly getting information back to us, and with that information detectives have to work from there. This case is still very active,” Sgt. Tonya Tator said.
The Jacksonville Beach Police Department has asked for the public’s help in identifying a vehicle of interest, a dark-blue Ford F-150 captured on surveillance video near the crime scene.
A spokesman for the state attorney’s office, David Chapman, declined to comment.
Kirsten Bridegan said she won’t give up until her husband’s killers are brought to justice.
“Not only was this an attack on my husband and his life, it was an attack on the family we built together, and I won’t take it lying down,” she said. “I will keep fighting until the end. Whether it takes six more months or six more years, I will continue fighting for him and the kids.”
Matteo Cina and Haley Chi-Sing contributed to this report.