James Ray III, a New Jersey lawyer who was convicted of killing his girlfriend before fleeing to Cuba, died on Sunday, a few weeks before he was to be sentenced, authorities said. The 60-year-old was found unconscious in his cell at the Essex County Correctional Facility Sunday evening and was taken to University Hospital in Newark, where he was pronounced dead.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause of death, officials said. Ray fatally shot his girlfriend Angela Bledsoe in October 2018 in their Montclair home after she dropped their six-year-old daughter off at school, according to prosecutors. 44-year-old Bledsoe had plans to move out and had scheduled a meeting with a realtor that day before she was killed, prosecutors added.
Following the killing, Ray prepared several documents and went to a local bank to withdraw checks and cash, authorities said. He then picked up his daughter from school and left her in the hands of his brother at a restaurant before fleeing to Mexico, where he booked a flight to Cuba, prosecutors said.
In November 2018, a month after he fled, he was brought back to the U.S. and has been in custody ever since. Last month, jurors deliberated for just three hours before convicting Ray of first-degree murder and weapons charges. NJ.com reported that he faced 30 years to life in prison and was scheduled to be sentenced on July 11.
“This is a tragic ending to a tragic story,” Thomas R. Ashley, one of two attorneys who represented Ray during his trial, was quoted by NJ.com. Ashley said that Ray “didn’t show any emotion” when the guilty verdict was read after his two-month trial.
Ray, who was raised in Brooklyn, served as a Marine before becoming a New York City police officer for two years. He subsequently went to law school. His girlfriend was a graduate of Florida A&M University who worked as an analyst with Chase Manhattan Bank and later as an associate with JPMorgan Chase.