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Posted: April 19, 2017

Death of 1st female Muslim judge in U.S. considered ‘suspicious,’ police say


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By Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

NEW YORK CITY —

New York police officials are now treating the death of a New York Court of Appeals judge as “suspicious” after sources initially indicated her death was a likely suicide. 

The body of Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, 65, was pulled from the Hudson River last week. Her husband had reported her missing April 11, the day before she was found. 

Related: Body of New York State Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam found in Hudson River

NYPD Sgt. Brendan Ryan told ABC News Tuesday evening that the investigation thus far has not found evidence to indicate how Abdus-Salaam died. 

“We have a middle-aged woman deceased in the water with all her clothes on, with no signs of homicide or suicide,” Ryan said. “When a body is found floating in a river, it is deemed suspicious in nature. Absent any clear signs of criminality, the cause of death is determined by the medical examiner.”

Abdus-Salaam’s autopsy was inconclusive, pointing to neither suicide nor murder. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said it would require further investigation.

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Police last week offered a rough timeline of Abdus-Salaam’s final days, NBC New York reported. She spent the weekend before her death with her husband in New Jersey. 

Her husband last saw her around 7 p.m. April 9, police said. Abdus-Salaam spoke to her assistant the morning of April 11, and the assistant appears to be the last person known to have heard from her. 

Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman to serve on New York’s top court and the first Muslim judge in the United States, was found about 30 hours later when her body washed up on the river bank near Harlem.

The judge had her MetroCard on her when her body was found, but the last time it was used was the Monday before her death, NBC New York reported.

Police are looking for anyone who might have information that could help fill in the blanks in Abdus-Salaam’s final days. The NYPD’s 26th Precinct on Tuesday tweeted a flyer asking for information about Abdus-Salaam’s death. 

The flyer had information about what Abdus-Salaam was wearing when she was found: a charcoal gray sweatshirt with a zippered front and the word “Canada” in red letters, bordered in white, across the chest. The sweatshirt also bore the Canadian flag and the word “Vancouver” in white letters. 

Abdus-Salaam was also wearing black sweatpants, white ankle socks and white New Balance sneakers. 

Abdus-Salaam was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2013. Prior to her appointment, she served on the Manhattan state Supreme Court for 14 years, ABC News reported.


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