arrest
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II gives details on James Ray’s arrest in Cuba.
ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

A Montclair man crossed the border into Mexico and caught a plane to Cuba after he allegedly shot his girlfriend at their shared home on North Mountain Avenue last month, according to the Acting Essex County Prosecutor.

James Ray, 55, was arrested in Havana on Oct. 28 as he was preparing to cross through Cuban customs, Acting Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II said.

PHOTO COURTESY ESSEX COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY James Ray.

He was in custody at the Essex County Jail as of Tuesday, Nov. 6, the night he returned to New Jersey, according to correctional facility records. He has been booked on two counts of murder.

However, the exact charges that Ray will face in court were still being finalized as of Wednesday.

Angela Bledsoe, 44, was found with numerous gunshot wounds at the couple’s home on North Mountain Avenue on Oct. 23. Authorities had been searching for Ray since that time.

“She was a young mother of a six-year-old child. A brilliant young professional, struck down in the prime of her life,” Stephens said of Bledsoe during a Wednesday, Nov. 6, press conference in Newark.

The other speakers included FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Ehrie and Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Michael McCarthy. Also present at the conference were Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson and Montclair Police Chief Todd Conforti.

After the murder, Stephens said, Ray allegedly dropped his daughter off with relatives in Pennsylvania. He then traveled to the southwest United States, where he entered Mexico through an undisclosed border crossing. From there, Ray boarded a flight to Cuba.

Authorities from the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency have met with the girl, Stephens said, and she is now in the care of Bledsoe’s family.

Prosecutor’s office spokesperson Katherine Carter said the girl had not been at the home on North Mountain Avenue when Bledsoe was killed, but did not provide further details.

Investigators had obtained evidence that Ray might try to go to Cuba, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Ehrie. The Interpol issued a Red Notice – an alert to law enforcement agencies in the Interpol’s member countries – which allowed authorities to stop Ray before he could go through Cuban customs. He remained in custody there until the FBI brought him back to the United States on Nov. 6.

“Now, this case is unique because of the cooperation between local, county, state, federal and international law enforcement,” Stephens said.

Stephens would not comment on reporters’ questions on whether police had been called to Ray and Bledsoe’s house before, or on a potential motive for the slaying, only that the case was still under investigation at this time.

Police records reveal

According to police reports there were four incidents since 2015, in which the Montclair Police Department responded to the residence on North Mountain Avenue.

One included a traffic stop in front of the house on Jan. 16, 2016, but the report did not contain information about the vehicle or the driver. On Feb. 3, 2016, police responded to a 911 call hangup at the house. When police responded no one was home. On June 26, 2016, an officer was called to the house as a “female with a blue Mitsubishi wished to keep peace while she gathered her belongings.” The female in the report was not identified. On Nov. 29, 2017, there was a report of officers conducting a side job at the address. Details were not provided.

Jackson made a statement thanking the law enforcement agencies involved for all their work.

“Clearly, this is a case that has disrupted our community, horrified our community,” Jackson said. He said he hoped the latest developments would bring some closure to Bledsoe’s family and the community.

Ray’s first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13, before Superior Court Judge Martin G. Cronin to determine if he will be be detained. Stephens said the prosecutor’s office will seek to have Ray held without bail, due to the nature of the crime and his propensity to flee the jurisdiction.

Ray is a lawyer with the law firm Ray and Associates in New York, while Bledsoe had worked in finance.

Bledsoe’s funeral was held in Maryland on Friday.

The prosecutor’s office issued a statement thanking the Montclair Police Department, the Allentown, Pennsylvania Police Department; the New Jersey State Police; the FBI; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Embassy in Havana for their aid in the investigation and Ray’s capture.