Montclair couple a mystery to neighbors; police called to house on previous occasions
By ERIN ROLL
Questions remain one week following the death of Angela Bledsoe, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend James Ray.
Funeral services for Bledsoe are planned at 11 a.m. Friday at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland where Bledsoe grew up. The funeral will be livestreamed on the church’s website.
Both worked in prominent jobs in New York: Ray was a lawyer with the firm Ray and Associates, and Bledsoe was a financial services consultant with Securities America, after working for J.P. Morgan Chase.
Since at least 2015, Ray owned the beige stucco house at 304 North Mountain Ave., a short walk from Anderson Park and the Upper Montclair train station.
The couple were the parents of a young daughter, 6-year-old Alana, who is now in the care of relatives.
But neighbors said that Bledsoe and Ray did not socialize very much with the rest of the community. Most neighbors said they didn’t feel comfortable discussing the couple or that they didn’t know the family well enough.
Elizabeth Gilbertson, who lives down the street, said Bledsoe and Ray didn’t socialize much with the community. However, she said she hadn’t been sure whether it was because of work schedules or other factors.
Police were dispatched to 304 North Mountain Ave. just before midnight on Oct. 22. There, they found Bledsoe, 44, with numerous gunshot wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene just over an hour later.
Ray remains at large, and was last seen in his black BMW 328i with New Jersey license plates.
‘Very, very smart’
Bledsoe made a difference during her time as a member of her university alumni association's executive board.
She helped organize an alumni breakfast that was a fundraiser for the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association's scholarship program. That breakfast raised $700,000 in a matter of hours.
In addition, she was also a very good friend. "Just genuinely sweet," said Gregory Clark, the association's president.
Association members were coping with the news that Bledsoe, was killed earlier this week.
“Certainly we’re in shock, and it’s certainly very, very hurtful,” Clark said. “It’s tough right now.”
As national parliamentarian for the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association, Bledsoe was closely involved in business related to the association's constitution and bylaws. Her background in financial consulting came in very useful in her work on the association's finances committee.
Bledsoe had been one of Clark’s first appointees when he became the alumni association’s president three years ago. She served as the association’s national parliamentarian as well.
Every year, during the alumni association’s national convention, Bledsoe would buy ties and handkerchiefs for all of the men on the executive board. “‘I want all the men on our board to look good,’ she would say. We always looked forward to whatever tie combination she came up with,” Clark remembered.
Clark and Bledsoe had recently discussed Clark’s run for a second term as president. “She was engaged and smart. I think that’s the big thing. Very, very smart.”
Clark has been in touch with Bledsoe’s sister, and the association will plan a tribute with guidance from the family.
In New Jersey, Bledsoe had been a “cookie mom” with the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey council, which includes Bergen, Passaic, Sussex, Morris and Warren counties.
She was also involved with the Montclair and Brooklyn chapters of Delta Sigma Theta.
Ray is a lawyer licensed to practice law in New York, working at his Manhattan firm Ray and Associates on Fulton Street.
In 2013, Sabrina Rafi, a former paralegal with Ray and Associates, filed a lawsuit alleging that Ray had repeatedly subjected her to sexual harassment.
In the suit, filed in April 2013, Rafi alleged that Ray repeatedly talked to her about pornography and polygamy. “On these multiple occasions...Ray would try to convince plaintiff that she should also endorse a polygamist lifestyle, whereby she would have sexual relations with different men...the insinuation was clear, which was that Ray was propositioning plaintiff to engage in a polygamist lifestyle with him.”
The suit included one allegation in which, during a mandatory dinner at a Korean restaurant in New York, Ray ordered Rafi to feed him shrimp using chopsticks, and told her that he wanted her to be his “third wife.”
Rafi said she began wearing a coat in the office to dissuade Ray's advances. She contends when she rebuffed his advances, she was dismissed from her position. The suit was settled.
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.
Second death in a year
Bledsoe's death is the second incident this year in Montclair in which a woman was killed allegedly by a current or former partner. In April, 20-year-old Akirah Townes was stabbed to death on Hartley Street. Her ex-boyfriend later turned himself in to police.
The Montclair-based group SOFIA: Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates assists people affected by domestic violence.
“Our hearts break for Angela Bledsoe and those who love her, including her young daughter. The shock and pain felt by those close to her and around her is a feeling too many people will share,” board member Kristin Wald said.
“We can all be a part of healing and support by peeling away the stigma of domestic violence and intimate partner violence and not turning away from its tragic effects after the headlines have moved on. We must also matter-of-factly acknowledge the deadly intersection of gun violence and domestic violence,” Wald said.
Anyone with information on Bledsoe's killing and Ray's whereabouts is asked to call the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force tip line at 1-877-TIPS-4EC, or 1-877-847-7432.