TRENTON — The head of the State Police is optimistic that a congressional resolution calling for the return of New Jersey fugitive Joanne Chesimard from Cuba could be successful.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and fellow Cuban-American U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced a resolution this week calling for her immediate extradition to the United States along with 70 other fugitives "who are receiving safe haven in Cuba."

The state is offering a $2 million reward for information leading to her safe return to a New Jersey prison. Chesimard escaped from prison where she was serving a sentence in the killing of State Trooper Werner Foerster, who was shot during a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.

After being convicted as an accomplice in the slaying, Chesimard escaped from the state's woman's prison in 1979 and eventually surfaced in Cuba, where she was granted political asylum under the name Assata Shakur.

State Police Col. Patrick Callahan told New Jersey 101.5. he is thrilled and optimistic about the Menendez/Rubio resolution.

"From a State Police perspective, from a law enforcement perspective and an entire country's perspective, I think it would go a long way if we were able to have Joanne Chesimard returned to serve out the rest of her sentence for the conviction of killing Werner Foerster," Callahan said.

“This Resolution underscores the importance of bringing brazen criminals and terrorists to justice in the United States," Menendez said. "As we seek a more responsible U.S.-Cuba policy, we must make it clear that Cuba must end the shameful practice of harboring to American fugitives who have committed egregious acts, including murdering American police officers, hijacking planes, or trafficking arms."

Callahan said "his extends way beyond politics."

"I think in our efforts to 'normalize' relationships with Cuba, that really cannot happen until Joanne Chesimard and the other convicted fugitives that are down there are returned to the United States to serve out the remain vigilant," he said.

President Donald Trump was made an honorary member of the New Jersey State Police during a private ceremony in May 2017 for his support of efforts to return Chesimard.  State Police said he brought her up during a private White House ceremony

Then-Gov. Chris Christie said during the March 2017 edition of "Ask the Governor" on New Jersey 101.5 that he had brought up Cherimard several times with Trump.

"He knows about Joanne Chesimard and he remembers that case. Remember, he's lived in this region his whole life and that was a pretty infamous case.  And he talked about it during the campaign," Christie said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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