Jennifer Hudson's nephew missing after double killing

Brother-in-law of Oscar winner in custody after her mother and brother found dead at Chicago home

Chicago police were last night searching for the missing seven-year-old nephew of the Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson, and questioning the star's former brother-in-law on suspicion of the double murder of her mother and brother in the family home.

The star's publicist yesterday pleaded for her to be left alone to come to terms with the tragedy at the house on Chicago's South Side, the place that she always said kept her grounded while her career took off. Her mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, who was in the audience in Hollywood last year as Hudson collected the Oscar for best supporting actress in Dreamgirls, was found shot dead in the living room on Friday afternoon, and 29-year-old Jason Hudson was found shot in the bedroom. Julian King, the son of Hudson's sister Julia, has not been seen since, and police issued details of two cars in which he may have been abducted.

William Balfour, the 27-year-old former husband of Julia Hudson, was taken into custody yesterday, according to local media reports. Records from the Illinois Department of Corrections show he is on parole and spent nearly seven years in prison for attempted murder, vehicular hijacking and possessing a stolen vehicle.

His MySpace page, which he last updated in June, describes his mood as "forgotten". On it, he wrote: "I don't tolerate bullshit, so don't come to me with it. I might as well let you all know that Jennifer Hudson is my wife's sister. I'm proud of her and wish her nothing but the best in what she do, but don't hit me up asking bout her."

Mr Balfour's mother told reporters that he had been married to Julia Hudson for several years, but that Ms Donerson had ordered him out of the family home last winter.

Lisa Kasteler, Jennifer Hudson's publicist, said yesterday: "We can confirm there is an ongoing investigation concerning the deaths of Jennifer Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, and her brother, Jason Hudson."

The star was due to appear tomorrow in Los Angeles to collect an honour as part of the ensemble cast of The Secret Life of Bees, her new film with Alicia Keys, Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah.

The 27-year-old Hudson has quickly become one of the most bankable actresses and singers since coming to prominence as one of the finalists on the search-for-a-star show American Idol. She featured in the summer movie blockbuster Sex and the City, and her latest single, "Spotlight", has been a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The star, whose father died when she was a teenager, said she was close to her family. She dedicated her Oscar, for her role as Effie White, to her grandmother, a talented gospel singer in the family's Chicago church, who did not have the opportunities that Hudson has enjoyed.

In a recent Associated Press interview, she said her family kept her grounded. "They're very realistic and very normal," she said.