The New York region was shocked to learn that a groundbreaking judge had been found dead on the banks of the Hudson River, having reportedly taken her own life. But now new information has surfaced indicating that police believe that the death of Sheila Abdus-Salaam was “suspicious.”
Abdus-Salaam, 65, the first African-American woman to serve on the New York State Court of Appeals, was found dead last Wednesday about a mile from her home in Harlem. Her husband had reported her missing earlier in the day and was brought in to identify her. Initially, the NYPD said there were no signs of trauma or any evidence that would indicate foul play. But now police officials are looking for more information surrounding her death and have taken to Twitter to ask the public for assistance.
— NYPD 26th Precinct (@NYPD26Pct) April 18, 2017
NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis told the New York Post that police haven’t made any determinations on exactly what happened, but they continue to investigate.
“We’re looking at it as a suspicious death at this point,” said Davis. “We haven’t found any clear indications of criminality, but at this point we can’t say for sure. We’re hoping if anyone could shed any light into the hours before her disappearance, it would help us establish what happened.”
Investigators have been going over surveillance video to try to determine what happened in Abdus-Salaam’s final moments, according to the Post. The last person to see her alive was a deliveryman who gave her a package at her apartment on April 12. Her husband had reported her missing after getting a call that she had not shown up for work that day.
She was found floating in the Hudson River, on the west side of Manhattan about 1:45. Medical examiners have not yet determined a cause of death. The Post said some slight bruising was found on her neck when the body was discovered, but none that would be consistent with strangling. She had also left her car, cash, pocketbook, subway card and cellphone at the apartment. There was no sign of forced entry at her home.
Abdus-Salaam was a graduate of Barnard College who received her J.D. from the Columbia University Law School, where she had been a classmate of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. She was first appointed to the appellate court by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013.
Before that, she served on Manhattan Supreme Court for 14 years and had been an attorney with the New York City Law Department and the city Office of Labor Services.