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James Ray
James Ray PHOTO COURTESY ESSEX COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY

By Erin Roll and Jaimie Julia Winters
roll@montclairlocal.news, winters@montclairlocal.news

James Ray III is expected in Superior Court on charges of killing his girlfriend and mother of his child, Angela Bledsoe, on Friday, Nov. 16.

A hearing, scheduled for Tuesday in Superior Court, was postponed due to Ray’s attorney, William Ewing, asking for more time on the discovery period.

Ray was on the run since Bledsoe was found shot to death in the couple’s Montclair home on Oct. 23. After dropping off their 6-year-old daughter with his brother, Ray headed to Mexico and then hopped a plane to Cuba where he was detained at customs by Cuban authorities on Oct. 28. He was returned to New Jersey on Nov. 6, authorities said.

Bledsoe had a financial consulting practice in Manhattan after a tenure with J.P. Morgan Chase, was involved with the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey as a “cookie mom,” and highly involved with the national alumni association for her alma mater, Florida A&M University, and with the sorority Delta Sigma Theta.

“She was a young mother of a 6-year-old child. A brilliant young professional, struck down in the prime of her life,” Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II said at a press conference announcing Ray’s capture.

Ray was the founder of the law firm Ray and Associates, a New York-based law firm specializing in civil cases, personal injury and intellectual property.

Neighbors said the couple did not socialize much with the community.

Police had been at the house on four occasions since 2015 when Ray bought the home. One was a 911 hangup, and an officer was called to the house to keep peace while a woman gathered her belongings, according to police reports.

The road to Cuba

According to the affidavit and charging documents from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Ray called his brother, Robert, on the evening of Oct. 22 and asked to meet him at the LongHorn Steakhouse in Piscataway.

Ray arrived at the restaurant just after 6 p.m. with his daughter and asked his brother to watch her for a week. He put her suitcase into Robert Ray’s car, used the restroom and left. Ray seemed “anxious and fidgety,” Robert Ray told authorities.

An Essex County Prosecutor’s spokesperson had said earlier that the child was not present in the house at the time of the killing.

At his home in Pennsylvania later that night, Robert Ray opened his niece’s suitcase, and discovered Ray’s cell phone and a note by Ray confessing to killing Bledsoe, alluding to her having an affair.

Robert Ray contacted the Montclair police after reading the note. Officers went to the house at 304 North Mountain Ave. at 11:48 p.m., entered, and found Bledsoe lying on the kitchen floor with gunshot wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:17 a.m.

“In part and in substance, James Ray III wrote that he shot and killed the decedent, that he was scared and did not want the long burden of a trial, nor did he want to face jail time. He also made mention of an affair he suspected the decedent was having,” the affidavit read.

A blood trail was found leading from the living room to the kitchen. In the living room, police found a gun cleaning kit, three spent .45 casings in both the living room and kitchen, a bullet embedded in the couch, and a 9 mm handgun that had been placed in a box for a .45 handgun. In the kitchen, police found another spent .45 shell casing and bullet.

Police did not find the .45 handgun allegedly used in the murder at the house, and still have not located it, according to the documents.

The hunt for Ray involved law enforcement agencies on multiple levels, including departments in Montclair and Allentown, PA, the FBI, Homeland Security and Interpol.

New Jersey Child Protection and Permanency staff have placed the daughter in the care of the Bledsoe family, Stephens said.

Memories

Bledsoe’s funeral was held at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland on Nov. 2, While hundreds attended in person another 350 watched online.

Family and friends shared memories of Bledsoe, including how she was in charge of preparing the turkey every year at Thanksgiving and how she and a friend had gone to Obama’s presidential inauguration together.

Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson announced Bledsoe’s daughter will receive a full scholarship to Florida A&M University, her mother’s alma mater.