NEWARK, N.J. – An attorney is going to trial on charges that he shot and killed the mother of his child at her home in an upscale New Jersey suburb, then fled to Cuba and was caught by customs authorities in Havana who had received an Interpol alert about him.
More than seven months after she was found dead at her Montclair home, Angela Bledsoe's family and friends are still grappling with the violence that snuffed out a life that seemed blessed in so many ways.
"It's a funny thing — you have done everything right, by the book, with your family and then there's a roadblock," her father, Ray Bledsoe, said through tears Monday at a pretrial hearing for his daughter's boyfriend, James Ray III, who is charged with her murder. "Then you begin to question yourself: What could I have done? Should I have offered more advice? Should I have been there, been more protective?"
Ray is charged with shooting and killing Bledsoe in their home in October. He is believed to have fled to Mexico and then Cuba. As he tried to go through customs in Havana, Ray was captured and turned over to U.S. authorities for extradition.
Ray didn't speak at Monday's brief hearing as attorneys updated state Superior Court Judge Ronald Wigler on the case's status. Ray's attorneys plan to argue that the shooting was in self-defense, and they said Monday they were in the process of enlisting a medical examiner and ballistics expert. Prosecutors have said Bledsoe was shot once in the jaw and three times in the back.
A trial could begin as early as late June.
Bledsoe left behind the 6-year-old daughter she had with Ray. The girl is living with Bledsoe's sister, Lisa LaBoo, in the Orlando, Florida, area. LaBoo and her husband, Christopher LaBoo, attended Monday's hearing along with her parents and about 10 other friends and relatives.
Bledsoe was president of her high school class in the Maryland suburbs of Washington and was an excellent student who had worked abroad for a time and was working as an independent financial consultant at the time of her death, her family said.
"She was a beautiful person on the inside and the outside," Lisa LaBoo said. "She was a dedicated mother, daughter, sister and friend to many, and we miss her very dearly."
Bledsoe was deeply involved in alumni activities at Florida A&M University, particularly through the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. The family on Monday announced the formation of an endowment to fund scholarships at the school. The goal is to reach $100,000 in donations by September, LaBoo said.
Ray's capture came about after Cuban authorities received an alert from Interpol, the international police agency, the Cuban government said in a statement at the time.
While Cuba has refused to return to the U.S. fugitives to whom it gave political asylum in past decades, it has cooperated more frequently with the U.S. since the countries resumed diplomatic relations in 2014.