The first ever United States female Muslim Judge was found dead shortly after her husband reported her missing. Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s body was pulled from the Hudson River in New York near Manhattan on Wednesday.
Abdus-Salaam was 65-years-old and had served on the New York Court of Appeals as an associate judge. She served on New York’s top court as the first African-American woman, according to the Hill.
Her husband reported her missing earlier in the day on Wednesday to the police. According to the New York Times today, the judge’s cause of death is believed to be suicide, but there is an on-going investigation on her death.
Judge Abdus-Salaam called out of work on Tuesday, saying she wasn’t feeling well. She had called her chambers, which is located in Midtown Manhattan. Then on Wednesday, there was no call from Abdus-Salaam when she failed to show up at work.
The judge was basically a newlywed, as she had been married to her husband for only eight months. It was her husband who Abdus-Salaam’s assistant reached out to via a text message when she didn’t show up for work on Wednesday. According to a law enforcement official, it was a short time after that when her husband called 911 to report her missing.
Later in the afternoon on Wednesday, her body was discovered floating in the Hudson River. Officials pulled her body from the river in the area of West 132nd Street. According to reports, the body was located very close to shore. From what the investigators have said, due to the condition of her body, they don’t believe she had been in the river for any length of time. Judge Abdus-Salaam had a Metro card in her pocket and was wearing a wrist watch. She was casually dressed in a zippered sweater that was gray, and she also had black sweatpants on and a gray T-shirt. She was also wearing her New Balance sneakers.
Officials speaking to the Times under anonymity said how Abdus-Salaam’s steps were traced from where she was last seen on Monday night, which was leaving her office. They were able to track her journey home, which included taking the subway at about 8 p.m., which was the No. 6 line.
According to the New York Post, witnesses spotted a body floating in the Hudson River and called 911. That was at about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. There were no signs of a physical struggle or injuries on her body, leading investigators to believe this was a suicide. Abdus-Salaam’s husband was the one who identified the body of his wife.
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Back at her home, the place was locked up using keys from the outside of the door. The judge’s cellphone was found inside her apartment. The governor of New York said in a statement on Wednesday evening that he considered Judge Abdus-Salaam a judge with an “unshakable moral compass.” Governor Andrew Cuomo also called her a “pioneer” and a “trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”
News of Abdus-Salaam’s death came as a “terrible blow” for Jonathan Lippman, who served as the chief judge of the state Court of Appeals from 2009 to 2015. In an interview with the New York Post, Lippman said that if you asked anyone who knew this judge about her, “people would only say the most wonderful things.” He then said “that’s why it makes it even more difficult to understand.”
Abdus-Salaam was known for the many fair decisions she made as a judge, and people who knew her through her entire law career said she was often thought of as a friend to the people who were less fortunate in life.
[Featured Image by Mike Groll/AP Images]