Defense for Montclair lawyer charged with murder seeks more experts
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF
By ERIN ROLL
The attorney for Montclair resident James Ray III, on trial for the murder of his live-in girlfriend last October, wants to bring in additional forensic experts to testify.
A status hearing for Ray took place Monday, June 3, in Essex County Superior Court before Judge Ronald Wigler.
Ray, 55, is accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend Angela Bledsoe, 44, at their shared home on North Mountain Avenue on Oct. 23, before fleeing the country. He was arrested by FBI and Homeland Security agents in Cuba five days later as he was preparing to cross through customs.
Bledsoe and Ray had a daughter, who was six years old at the time. Authorities say that Ray dropped off his daughter with his brother, who lives in Pennsylvania, before fleeing the area. Ray’s brother contacted authorities in Montclair, after he found Ray’s cell phone and a letter from Ray in the suitcase admitting to the killing, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Police responded to Ray and Bledsoe’s house on North Mountain Avenue, where they found Bledsoe’s body. She was pronounced dead just after 1 a.m. on Oct. 23.
The gun used in the shooting has not been recovered, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Ray is charged with first-degree murder and unlawfully possessing a weapon. He is being represented by defense attorneys Thomas Ashley and Brooke Barnett. Assistant Prosecutor Michele Miller and First Assistant Prosecutor Romesh C. Sukhdeo are prosecuting the case.
In his last court appearance, Ray’s attorney told the court he is arguing self defense in the murder. Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Shaughnessy at the time told the court, Bledsoe had been shot four times.
At Monday’s hearing, Ashley said the defense is lining up several experts — a medical examiner, a ballistics expert and a fingerprint expert — to examine the evidence. He added a forensics expert may be retained to examine Ray’s cell phone and cell phone records.
Barnett assured Wigler that the experts would be hired within the next two weeks.
“It seems like nothing much is going on,” Wigler said.
Barnett acknowledged this, but said there were “a lot of players” in the case.
“Don’t apologize to me, Mr. Ray’s the one in custody,” Wigler said, adding that Ray would likely want the legal proceedings and a trial to move as expeditiously as possible.
To that, Ashley said he disagreed with Wigler’s statements that the legal process was not moving swiftly.
Regarding the experts, Miller said the prosecution would ask to see the experts’ resumes once their names are selected.
She said that there are questions involving screenshots of deleted text messages and where those messages originated.
The home on North Mountain Avenue has since been put up for sale.
Ray was a lawyer with a law firm, Ray and Associates, based in New York. Bledsoe worked as an independent financial consultant with a practice in New York at the time of her death.
A follow-up hearing in the case has been scheduled for Monday, June 24.
Ray is being held in Essex County Correctional Facility with no bail option. The daughter is now in the care of Bledsoe’s family.