The detention hearing for James Ray III has been postponed again, due to a change in his defense attorney and a need to extend the discovery period.

Ray's new attorney, Thomas Ashley, also said a plea of not guilty would be entered on his client's behalf.

The request was made Friday afternoon before Essex County Superior Court Judge Ronald Wigler, with the consent of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

Ray, 55, is accused of killing his girlfriend, 44-year-old Angela Bledsoe, at their home in Montclair on Oct. 22. He left the country after dropping the couple's six-year-old daughter off with his brother, according to affidavit documents.

Ashley said he was named as Ray's new counsel the day before, and that the change-of-counsel paperwork had only been filed with the court that day.

Ashley is a prominent defense attorney with a Newark-based practice. His past clients include former Newark Mayor Sharpe James when he faced fraud and conspiracy charges in 2008.

Friday was also Ray's first appearance in a courtroom since being brought back to the United States from Cuba, where he had tried to flee. Ray spoke little during the appearance, except to answer "yes" to Wiglar when asked if he understood the proceedings.

The hearing has been rescheduled for Nov. 26, after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Montclair lawyer William Ewing, Ray's original counsel, had appeared on Ray's behalf on the hearing's original date, Tuesday, Nov. 13. At that hearing, Ewing had requested more time for the discovery period.

The reason for the change in defense lawyers was not stated in court Friday.

James Ray
From left, Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Timothy Shaughnessy and defense attorney Thomas Ashley discuss the discovery period in the case against James Ray. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

As of Friday, Ashley said he had copies of the affidavits in the case, as well as a written statement from Ray and the crime scene photos. He told Wigler that he would need copies of the crime scene diagrams, and any information regarding weapons.

Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Shaughnessy said the crime scene diagrams were not yet completed as of Friday. He noted that evidence appeared to indicate that the shooting had started in one room of the house and finished in another room.

Wigler said that the defense would have enough information in hand to proceed with proceedings by the 26th.

Shaughnessy then asked Wigler to enter an order dating from Nov. 13 - the original date of the hearing - to Nov. 26, the rescheduled date.

An affidavit said Ray left a note in his daughter's suitcase confessing to Bledsoe's killing. Bledsoe's brother contacted police in Montclair after finding the note.

Ray was arrested on Oct. 28 in Cuba and brought back to the United States on Nov. 6.

The rescheduled appearance was to have been at 9 a.m. Friday, but was delayed to the afternoon after the snowstorm forced the courthouse to have a delayed opening.