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NJ Police Seek Return Of Joanne Chesimard, Fugitive Cop Killer In Cuba

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New Jersey State Police hope that the U.S. plans to normalize full diplomatic relations with Cuba will help bring about the capture and return of a woman convicted in the slaying of a state trooper more than 40 years ago.

Joanne Chesimard was convicted of murdering Trooper Werner Foerster during a gunfight after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. Trooper James Harper was also seriously injured in the shooting.

Chesimard, whom the FBI has described as a member of the Black Liberation Army, was sentenced to life in prison.

NJ Police Seek Return Of Joanne Chesimard, Fugitive Cop Killer In Cuba

But she escaped in 1979 and eventually ended up in Cuba, where she was granted asylum by Fidel Castro and has been living under the name Assata Shakur.

State authorities have made numerous efforts to extradite Chesimard, who remains on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist List. The FBI and state police are offering $2 million for information leading to her capture.

New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes told the Los Angeles Times the change in U.S.-Cuba relations is an opportunity to bring Chesimard back to the U.S.

"Chesimard isn't the only fugitive down there wanted for a violent crime, and she's already been convicted, so it's a matter of bringing her back and sending her back to jail" he said. "There's other people that surround her that Castro has taken a liking to and it's been very, very difficult in their particular cases to have discussions to get them out."

"As it relates to Joanne Chesimard, I cannot believe that if this is the deal, the president struck where he basically gave it all, that we could not get someone who killed a New Jersey state trooper back as part of that deal," N.J. Sen. Bob Menendez said.

"I see this as an opportunity that we should seize the momentum on and we intend to seize the momentum on," Fuentes said.

Sen. Menendez said Chesimard is just one of at least 50 American fugitives being sheltered in Cuba.

"This case constitutes an open wound in our organization, and open wound in the Foerster and the Harper families, and we have tried to take advantage of every opportunity" Fuentes added.

In an interview with The New York Times last year -- the 40th anniversary of the crime -- Foerster's widow, Rosa, said: "I hope that they can get her. She has her freedom, and I don't have my husband."

As CBS2's Tony Aiello reported, in New York, some have not only defended Joanne Chesimard, but have celebrated her.

Former city councilman Charles Barron once held a large rally for Chesimard and her name was also on a student center at City College of New York until just a few years ago.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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