The death of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, whose body was found floating in the Hudson river, has been described as “suspicous” by police and unleashed a storm of intrigue surrounding the case.
- Sheila Abdus-Salaam found dead in New York’s Hudson River.
- First African-American, female Muslim judge’s mysterious death draws suspicion from police and family members.
- Who was the “force for good” at the center of the mysterious tragedy?
As the very first African-American woman to serve on New York’s Court of Appeals and the first Muslim woman to serve as a US judge, Sheila Abdus-Salaam had a difficult and unconventional rise to the top of America’s federal legal machine.
That rise was abruptly cut short with the discovery of the trailblazing judge’s body, floating in New York’s Hudon river.
Despite efforts made to revive the 65 year old, she was pronounced dead at around 2 PM, shortly after rescue responders found her.
— NYPD 26th Precinct (@NYPD26Pct) April 18, 2017
The discovery of her body in the Hudson river immediately raised eyebrows and considerable speculation into the strange circumstances and lack of possible motive.
Local police found no trauma or signs of injury on the body and it remains unclear as to how Abdus-Salaam died or ended up in the river itself.
According to BBC News, police first learned the judge was missing after her husband made a call Wednesday.
Th autopsy last week returned an inconclusive verdict and the cause of death is still pending, and the NYPD has officially ramped the investigation up into “suspicious” level.
“Until such a determination is made, the death may be classified as suspicious, in that the circumstances have not been clearly established,” the NYPD stated.
Initial reports of suicide were investigated and pointed to as the most likely cause but police have backtracked by upgrading the death to “suspicious”.
Abdus-Salaam’s husband Rev Gregory Jacobs joined police on Wednesday in his first public comments since her death to urge anyone to come forward with details on what happened.
“Unfounded Conclusions Have No Basis In Reality”
Gregory Jacobs has dismissed the possibility that his wife may have taken her own life.
“These reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death,” Mr Jacobs wrote in a statement to NBC News.
“Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality.”
Who Was Sheila Abdus-Salaam?
Abdus-Salaam enjoyed a distinguished career as the first Muslim woman to serve as a US judge. Shortly after becoming a public defender in her native Brooklyn, Abdus-Salaam also served as assistant attorney general in the New York state attorney’s Civil Rights Bureau.
In 2013 Abdus-Salaam was promoted to the State Court of Appeals, making her the first black woman to serve on New York’s highest court.
She enjoyed a reputation as a liberal champion of immigrants and the poor. She gave several influential rulings including last year’s that gave non-biological parents in same-sex relationships the right to seek custody of their children.
Initial "possible suicide" now "suspicious" death of trailblazing NYC appeals court judge, Sheila Abdus-Salaam found in Hudson River on 4/13 pic.twitter.com/gqENH4qz3X
— Rohan Mohanty (@ChasingRohan) April 20, 2017
“Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all,” the governor said in a statement. “I was proud to appoint her to the state’s highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio led tributes to Abdus-Salaams calling her “a pioneer”, with an “unshakeable moral compass”, who will be “missed deeply”.
I hate that Hernandez's suicide receives more attention than the Muslim judge dead in the Hudson
— Evan Sez (@Evan_Ferrer) April 20, 2017
The NYPD is urging anyone with any information pertaining to the case to contact them. As speculation mounts and growing public pressure to reach a conclusion builds, there are sure to be further developments in the mysterious death of America’s first female Muslim judge.