New Jersey

NYPD Closes Investigation Into Death of Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Turns Evidence Over to Medical Examiner

Abdus-Salaam, 65, was the first African American woman appointed to the New York Court of Appeals

What to Know

  • The NYPD has closed the case of pioneering NY judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam and handed evidence to the medical examiner
  • The medical examiner will release her official cause of death at some point in the future
  • The NYPD said there were no signs of foul play, suggesting she may have committed suicide

The NYPD has closed its investigation into the death of a prominent New York State judge whose body was found floating in the Hudson River last month.

The police department said it has completed its investigation into the death of Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam and that evidence has been given to the chief medical examiner, who will release her cause of death at some point. A previous autopsy was inconclusive.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Wednesday investigators had tracked down all leads and found no criminality. Boyce said a lot of hours were put into the investigation and that Abdus-Salaam was last seen in surveillance video from Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The NYPD previously said there were no signs of foul play, suggesting she may have killed herself after wandering the streets of Harlem for four hours. Her family and admirers insist that doesn't add up.

"Sheila was one of the most rational, measured and intellectual folks that I've ever known," said Keith Wright, a former state assemblyman, longtime friend and neighbor who exchanged pleasantries with her in the subway two days before the death. "I don't believe she killed herself."

Police have relied on security video to try to retrace the last hours of Abdus-Salaam's life. She spent her workweeks in the city at an apartment on West 131st Street in Harlem.

After staying home from work on April 11, she was seen on video leaving the home at around 8:30 p.m. and walking several blocks north, then eventually west on West 145th Street to an elevated park on the Hudson River, where a final video shows her alone there at about 12:30 a.m. on April 12, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press late last month on condition of anonymity.

Her body was found in the water about 13 hours later without obvious signs of trauma. She was in the same clothes - sweatshirt, sweatpants and white sneakers - as seen in the videos.

In a statement, Abdus-Salaam's family has disputed reports that she was battling depression and that, according to police, her death fell around the anniversaries of the suicides of both her mother and brother. Police later admitted that they were wrong about the mother's cause of death.

More questions followed after the NYPD tweeted a photo of a flyer last month asking for information from anyone who may have come in recent contact with Abdus-Salaam and after a police official called the death "suspicious." But police have stressed that only meant they hadn't reached a conclusion about the death.

The news coverage has "frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife's possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death," said the Rev. Canon Gregory Jacobs, her third husband and an Episcopal pastor who shared a home with her in New Jersey. "Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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