Investigation Discovery’s ‘Killer Cases: Death in Suburbia’ depicts the gruesome murder of 44-year-old Angela Bledsoe, in Montclair, New Jersey, in late October 2018. While the authorities identified their suspect at the very beginning of their homicide investigation, the perpetrator flew across state lines and international borders. The episode remains a testament to the victim’s family’s determination to help the police apprehend the killer and how law enforcement across varying states and countries collaborated to make it happen.
How Did Angela Bledsoe Die?
Born in 1974, Angela Michelle Bledsoe was described as “a strong, whip-smart, and inspirational leader” by her tight social network of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University alumni and her service sorority Delta Sigma Theta sisters. As a financial adviser, she had previously worked with elite organizations like JPMorgan Chase and Securities America in New York. Angela was also an active volunteer at Delta Sigma Theta, a social service organization conducting programs that benefit the African-American community.
One of her friends and a New York State assemblywoman from Brooklyn, Rodneyse Bichotte, met Angela in one of the sorority meetings in 2005. She stated, “Angela was the chair of Delta Sigma Theta’s economic development committee. She was very successful and independent. But also modest, humble, and quiet. She was someone I adored, just adored. She was an awesome, beautiful, and intelligent person.” The 44-year-old Angela was an adviser with AXA Life Insurance Company and one of the firm’s top producers in October 2018.
Angela, as the national parliamentarian of the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association, also played a significant role in matters concerning the association’s constitution and bylaws. Additionally, she held the position of the association’s national parliamentarian. Angela would personally select and purchase ties and handkerchiefs for each executive board member at the annual national convention. The association’s president, Gregory Clark, recalled, “We always looked forward to whatever tie combination she came up with.”
Angela served as a “cookie mom” with the Girl Scouts of the Northern New Jersey council and actively partook in the Delta Sigma Theta chapters in Montclair and Brooklyn. Hence, it was shocking when the 44-year-old was found shot dead inside an apartment on 304 North Mountain Avenue in Montclair in Essex County, New Jersey, around midnight on October 22. The police had gone to conduct a welfare check and pronounced her dead at 1:17 am on October 23. Her autopsy report stated that she had been shot in the chest, face, and back.
Who Killed Angela Bledsoe?
According to reports, Angela gave birth to her daughter, Alana, in 2012. Her friend, Rodneyse, stated she had met the baby’s biological father and Angela’s boyfriend, James R. Ray III, on many occasions. She recalled, “I don’t know what their arrangement was, but it seemed like a close relationship.” However, it could not be confirmed whether Angela knew of her partner’s chequered past and prior criminal records. James’ marital history includes a longstanding marriage with Cheryl, with whom he shares two children, Chelsey and James.
Beyond this marriage, there is also evidence of a previous marriage to Leslie Renee Adams, according to the above-cited news report. James’ criminal records show he faced significant legal challenges in 2013 when a paralegal, Sabrina Rafi, accused him of sexual harassment, alleging lengthy discussions about explicit content and his proposition to make her his “third wife.” The case settled for $35,000. He initiated legal action against a New Jersey judge regarding a financial dispute with his ex-wife, Leslie, in 2014.
However, the case was ultimately dismissed. James also played a role in the high-profile 2017 trial of Jelani Maraj, brother of rapper Nicki Minaj, accused of raping his 11-year-old stepdaughter. Hired by the victim’s mother, James testified to demanding $25 million to settle the case, inquiring about Maraj’s sister’s wealth when informed of his financial constraints. The defense labeled the demand as extortion, leading to his dismissal by the victim’s mother. Reports cited Angela met James in 2009 and managed his insurance sales business at his Park Avenue office, helping him transition to practice law during the 2013 sexual harassment lawsuit.
Details surrounding Angela and her daughter’s 2015 move into James’ Montclair home are unclear to neighbors on North Mountain Avenue. The neighbors claimed they did not socialize much with the community, with one of them, Anat Soudry, recalling, “It seemed as if she deliberately did not want to chat.” When questioned by the police after her death, Anat speculated that Angela might have been fearful. She added, “In retrospect, that may have been it. I did register it as not being normal.” Most of Angela’s friends claimed they were unaware of James.
In the days leading up to her death, Angela’s sister, Lisa LaBoo, and her cousin, Brooke Dean, expressed growing concern for her safety. They testified later that they urged her to leave, alarmed by Angela’s accounts of James’ unusual behavior and threats. While the couple were not married, they stayed together in his six-bedroom North Mountain Avenue house. However, Angela engaged in a long-distance romantic relationship with Bakari Burns, a fellow Florida A&M University alum, since October 2017. But Ray found out about it while checking her phone.
In text messages and video calls with Lisa and Brooke, Angela revealed how James had allegedly threatened to beat her and her lover up. Despite them repeatedly advising her to file a police report and move out, Angela hesitated, citing the impact on their daughter and her desire to find a home before leaving. After the police found Angela’s body, they declared James a suspect upon learning about his shady past and relationship dynamics with the victim. He had fled in his black BMW 328i with New Jersey license plates, and an arrest warrant was issued.
Is James Ray Dead or Alive?
According to reports, Angela had a scheduled meeting with a realtor as part of her plan to move out of the house she shared with James on October 22. After shooting her death, the murdering boyfriend withdrew checks and cash from a local bank, picked up his daughter from school, and left her with his brother at a restaurant. He subsequently fled to Mexico, booked a flight to Cuba, and was arrested by the Cuban authorities after they were made aware by their American counterparts. He was deported to the US on November 6, 2018.
Following a six-week trial, the jury deliberated for three hours before convicting James of murder, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in May 2023. The 60-year-old remained incarcerated at the Essex County Correctional Facility, awaiting his July 11 sentencing. According to police sources, he faced 30 years to life. However, James was found unconscious in his cell on the evening of June 18 and was rushed to the University Hospital in Newark, where he was pronounced dead. The cause and manner of death have not been released.