Cuba extradites a 55-year-old American lawyer to face murder charges in N.J.

A police car patrols the streets of Havana.
A police car patrols the streets of Havana.

A 55-year-old New Jersey lawyer wanted in the United States for allegedly murdering his girlfriend has been extradited from Cuba, where he apparently fled 10 days ago.

James Ray III, who is accused of shooting his girlfriend Angela Bledsoe in their Montclair, N.J., home while their six-year-old daughter was in the house, had been on the run for the past couple weeks, according to Essex County, N.J., authorities.

The Cuban government said he entered the country on Oct. 28 and that authorities handed him over to U.S. officials on Tuesday. Ray was wanted on an Interpol Red Notice.

“This action is based on Cuba’s full compliance with its international legal obligations” as well as existing bilateral law enforcement agreements between the two governments, Cuba said in a statement.

Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens said during a press conference that Mexican authorities had alerted the FBI that Ray, who had crossed the border, had boarded a plane headed for Cuba. Ray is expected to make a court appearance in New Jersey next week.

This is the second time in recent months that Cuba has returned an American fugitive wanted in the United States. In August, an accused U.S. eco-terrorism suspect linked to dozens of acts of arson and vandalism in the Pacific Northwest and western U.S. was detained in Havana and returned to the United States to face felony charges.

Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, 50, had been on the run for 12 years and was detained by Cuban authorities before he could carry out plans to board a flight bound for Russia. Dibee had been traveling in Central America when U.S. authorities learned that he planned to head to Russia with a stop in Cuba.

These extradition cases differ from a case earlier this year involving a Cuban national wanted in Palm Beach County for murdering Dr. Ronald Schwartz.

After that crime, Marcos Yanes Gutierrez fled to Cuba, but because the island doesn’t extradite Cuban nationals to the United States for trial, the Cuban government offered to try him in Cuba. Yanes was convicted in a Havana court, with evidence supplied by Palm Beach County prosecutors, early this year. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years.

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi