What to Know
- The body of Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was found in the Hudson River off Manhattan earlier this month
- Abdus-Salaam, 65, was the 1st black woman to serve on the New York State Court of Appeals and the 1st Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge
- Police had said there were no obvious signs of trauma, though they've determined the death to be suspicious
The NYPD said Tuesday that the death of a New York judge whose body was found in the Hudson River earlier this month is now considered "suspicious."
Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam — the first black woman appointed to New York State's highest court, and the first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge — was found dead in the Hudson River near Manhattan last Wednesday.
Her body showed no obvious signs of trauma, and police declined to speculate on the cause of her death. The NYPD said Abdus-Salaam's death is being treated as suspicious until an investigation is completed and it's determined exactly how she died.
Investigators have been combing through surveillance video for days, but have had trouble piecing together the hours before Abdus-Salaam's death. They're looking for any video or any witnesses who may have seen the 65-year-old in the time leading up to her death.
An autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death and required further study.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce previously told reporters that Abdus-Salaam spent the weekend with her husband in New Jersey; the husband last saw her Sunday night around 7 p.m. According to Boyce, Abdus-Salaam spoke with her assistant Tuesday morning; that appears to be the last time anyone heard from her before her body was found near West 132nd Street and Henry Hudson Parkway roughly 30 hours later.
Her husband, the Rev. Canon Gregory A. Jacobs, said in a statement Wednesday that family members are vigorously disputing other media reports' speculating that she committed suicide.
"Sheila loved Harlem and its people and lived there for nearly all of her adult life," said Jacobs. "I now join with the NYPD in asking anyone in the neighborhood to step forward with any information that might help us to determine what may have happened during those hours before her death."
Abdus-Salaam was elected to the Supreme Court of the State of New York in 1993, where she remained until 2009. She was serving on the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, before her death. She was appointed to the position by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013.
Cuomo called her a "pioneer" and a "force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come" in a statement.
Her family said Wednesday she was "an extraordinary woman," and that they loved her dearly and were "extremely proud of her."
"We will forever reflect on her courage, determination and strength that was capstoned by her modest, humble and beautiful spirit," the Turner family said in a statement. "Her legacy of high standards, morals and values will extend far beyond the courtroom to the many lives she touched and inspired in our family and around the world!"
While she was the first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge, Abdus-Salaam, who kept the last name of her first husband professionally, has not been a practicing Muslim for 20 years, according to her family. She married her Episcopal priest husband last year.
In Harlem last week, friends and colleagues remembered her as a kind, gentle and loving fixture of her community.