Father Pleads Not Guilty in Missing Baby Case

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCNewYork
    A police boat searches for child under Driscoll bridge.

    A New Jersey father pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges stemming from the disappearance of his 3-month-old daughter -- and officials said they fear the worst for the small child, who may have been thrown off a bridge.

    Officials say the father, 21-year-old Shamsiddi Abdur-Raheem, told police he threw the baby from Garden State Parkway's Driscoll Bridge.

    Search teams fanned out in the frigid river in search of little Zara Malani-lin Abdur, but so far, no clues have been found.

    Abdur-Raheem appeared composed during his video arraignment in Newark . He was charged with kidnapping, attempted murder, aggravated assault and child endangerment. He faces up to 30 years on the kidnapping charge alone.
        
    There was no reaction from the child's mother, Venetta Benjamin, who watched in court.

    Authorities say Abdur-Raheem abducted his daughter from her grandmother in East Orange on Tuesday and fled in a van with the baby. Police found him at a relative's home in Winslow Township.

    Abdur-Raheem is being held in lieu of $700,000 bail.

    Benjamin sought a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem Tuesday. Her lawyer, Mitchell Liebowitz, says the baby was snatched before the order was served.

    NJ Attorney General Paula Dow said authorities believe Benjamin "was in the process of obtaining that restraining order as the kidnap occurred."

    Officials could not fully explain why an Amber Alert wasn't issued when the baby was taken at around 4:10 p.m. Tuesday.

    "We don't know whether it should have been issued or it should not have been issued, we have a protocol and we are reviewing the protocol," said Dow. "Right now our focus is on finding the child."

    Officials also acknowledged reports that there may have been a third person with Abdur-Raheem and his daughter.

    "We are pursuing all leads," said Dow. Anyone with information should call 732-264-4150.