By ERIN ROLL
A status hearing for James Ray III, the Montclair man accused of killing his girlfriend in 2018, did not go forward on Wednesday, Jan. 29 after Ray’s defense attorneys did not appear in court.
The matter was to have been heard before Judge Verna Leath in Essex County Superior Court in Newark on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
Ray, 56,is accused of shooting and killing his live-in girlfriend, 44-year-old Angela Bledsoe, at the couple’s shared home on North Mountain Avenue in October 2018.
Ray’s lawyers, Thomas Ashley and Brooke Barnett, sent word to the court asking for an adjournment due to illnesses. Ray was present in the courtroom to hear the discussion between Leath and the prosecutors, but the hearing could not proceed as scheduled.
First Assistant Prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo and Assistant Prosecutor Michele Miller appeared on behalf of the prosecutor’s office.
Miller said the court had received requests from Barnett and Ashley, who were apparently both sick, asking for the adjournment. Miller said Ashley included a doctor’s note and a prescription blank in his request.
The court did not accept either request for adjournment, noting that Ashley’s law firm had other associates that Ashley could have delegated to appear in his absence. And Barnett’s request was denied because only Ashley, the senior counsel, could make a request for adjournment. Miller did note that Ashley had participated in an attorneys-only conference call earlier in the week.
Neither Barnett nor Ashley returned phone calls.
Several members of Bledsoe’s family were present, accompanied by friends and supporters, all wearing badges with Bledsoe’s photo. Miller noted that the family took time out of their schedules, traveled a significant distance from Maryland and Florida in order to be present for the hearing, and arranged care for Bledsoe’s daughter, who was six-years-old at the time of the shooting and is now in the care of her mother’s family. “They have uprooted their lives and changed their schedules to be here today,” Miller said.
A follow-up court date is to be determined.
Bledsoe worked as a financial consultant and was closely involved with the alumni association at Florida A&M University, her alma mater. Ray is a lawyer and the founder of the law firm Ray and Associates.
Court records indicate that Ray wrote a letter, which he placed in his daughter’s suitcase, claiming that he shot Bledsoe in self-defense. Ray dropped the couple’s daughter off with his brother before fleeing the country. Ray’s brother found the letter and contacted authorities in Montclair. Police arrived at the house on North Mountain Avenue and found Bledsoe.
Authorities tracked Ray in Cuba and had him arrested just before he passed through customs on Oct. 28, 2018.