James R. Ray III, the Montclair lawyer who shot the mother of his 6-year-old daughter and then fled to Cuba, was convicted of first-degree murder.
Following a six-week trial before Superior Court Judge Verna G. Leath, the jury deliberated for just three hours before convicting Ray of murder, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Sentencing is scheduled for June 22, 2023, before Judge Leath. Ray faces the possibility of a life sentence in New Jersey State Prison.
The murder occurred nearly five years ago in the house the couple shared with their daughter on North Mountain Avenue in Montclair. On October 22, 2018, Ray, now 60, shot Angela Bledsoe, 44, in the chest, face, and back, said Assistant Prosecutor Michele Miller, who tried the case along with Assistant Prosecutor John Petillo. Ray shot Bledsoe shortly after she returned home after dropping their daughter off at school.
Ray then prepared several documents and went to a local bank, where he withdrew checks and cash. He picked his daughter up from school and dropped her off with his brother at a New Jersey restaurant. He asked his brother to take care of his daughter and then abruptly left the restaurant. Ray traveled through the southwestern United States and into Mexico, where he booked a flight to Cuba. Ray was returned to the United States by U.S. law enforcement officials on Nov. 6, 2018, and has been in custody at the Essex County Correctional Facility since then.
Ray was raised in Brooklyn and spent two years as a New York City police officer before earning an M.B.A. and going to law school. He also served in the U.S. Marines.
On the day of her death, Bledsoe had a meeting scheduled with a Realtor to find a place of her own; she was planning to move out of the house she shared with Ray.
Prosecutor Miller praised the jury for their hard work and patience over the course of the 6-week trial and said she was pleased to have Ms. Bledsoe’s parents in the courtroom when the verdict was read. “They waited a long time for this day,” said Miller, “and they finally got justice for Angela.”
Assistant Prosecutor Petillo praised the jury’s verdict and said he’s grateful that the State was able “to deliver justice to Angela Bledsoe’s family.”
Ray and Bledsoe’s daughter remains with her family members. Having waited nearly five years for the trial to begin, a large group of Bledsoe’s family and friends filled the courtroom. After the verdict was read, Ray Bledsoe, Angela’s father, said he was thankful to Miller for doing “outstanding work.”
Acting Prosecutor Stephens credited the Montclair Police Department, the Allentown Police Department in Pennsylvania, the New Jersey State Police, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, Interpol, and the U.S. Department of State for their efforts in the investigation and in the apprehension of Ray.
Stephens also thanked the jury, the prosecutors, and especially the Bledsoe family. “I’ve never seen a family as engaged with a trial as they were, and having them in the courtroom every day encouraged us to carry out our mission, which is to serve justice,” he said. “And on this day, justice was served.”