“She was life” – How Jenni McGruder’s husband keeps her memory alive

GALESBURG, Illinois -- Days after a jury found Jonathan Kelly guilty of first degree murder in the shooting death of 26-year-old Jenni McGruder, her husband spoke to WQAD News Eight about how he is keeping her memory alive.

Prosecutors said Kelly opened fire at Seminary Street Pub after a bar fight on April 1st, 2018. McGruder, who was out that night celebrating her birthday, was shot in the back of the head and died on the scene.

Her husband, Michael McGruder, followed the trial closely, sitting only a few feet away from the man convicted of killing his wife.

"I wouldn't talk to him," McGruder said. "I mean there's nothing I can say, there's nothing I could do that could bring her back."

He said he was relieved when the jury returned a verdict of guilty on first degree murder.

"Once they said that, I didn't even care about the other charges," McGruder said. "He ended up being guilty of all charges, but once I heard that first big one, I was just relieved."

Michael and Jenni had been together for 12 years; since they were kids.

"She was life," he said. "That's what's crazy, that her life got taken away because in any room, she lit it up."

A part of Jenni lives on in their kids, two-year-old Ryker and four-year-old Ryleigh. He said Ryleigh especially reminds him of his late wife.

"That's Jenni. That's Jenni all over again," he said, admiring her as she sang Christmas songs to News Eight.

McGruder keeps several framed photos of Jenni around the house. She and the kids did a photo shoot just two weeks before she died.

"She looked amazing in these pictures," he said. He said the photos, and conversations with his kids, would help keep Jenni's memory alive.

"We grew up together, Jenni and I," said McGruder. "So to let them know little things that their mom enjoyed, and maybe they can start to enjoy, because their mom did."





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