A body found Saturday near the Raritan River may be that of a 3-month-old girl whose father confessed to throwing her off a highway bridge earlier this year, state police said.
DNA testing will peformed soon to determine whether the body is that of 3-month-old Zara Malani-Lin Abdur-Raheem. Clothing and wrappings in which the baby's body was found are consistent with the descriptions of the young girl, state police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Jones said.
Prosecutors say the infant's father, Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem of Galloway Township, killed her several hours after abducting her from her grandmother's apartment in East Orange. He has pleaded not guilty to murder charges filed in Middlesex County, where the bridge is located, and several related charges in Essex County, where police say the kidnapping occurred.
Abdur-Raheem is being represented by the state public defender's office. Tom Rosenthal, an office spokesman, declined to comment Saturday afternoon on the discovery of a body.
The baby's mother, Venetta Benjamin, had been seeking a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem on the day the abduction occurred, he lawyer said. Jones said she has been notified of the discovery, but he declined to comment further.
A phone message left Saturday afternoon for Benjamin was not immediately returned.
Authorities have said Abdur-Raheem abducted the baby from her grandmother's apartment around 4 p.m. on Feb. 16, choking and assaulting the woman and then striking her with his van as she attempted to block his escape.
Abdur-Raheem later parked his vehicle on the southbound shoulder of the highway over the Driscoll Bridge — which spans the Raritan River between Sayreville and Woodbridge — and threw or dropped the baby from the front passenger window, authorities said.
Jones said the body was found just after 8:30 a.m. Saturday by people who were walking along the southern bank of the Raritan River in Sayreville. The baby was found just east of the Route 35 bridge, which is also known as the Victory Bridge, not far from where the baby is said to have been thrown.
An autopsy will be performed at the North Regional Office in Newark, Jones said, adding that DNA samples will be processed at the state police lab as soon as possible.