Authorities on Wednesday identified the mother and son found dead in a New Jersey pond the prior evening, though are withholding the name of the woman's 6-year-old son, who alerted others to call 911 with his cries for help, a source said.
Warda Syed, 35, and her 11-year-old son, Uzair Ahmed, were discovered in a pond in the Upper Pond section of Grace Lord Park in Boonton around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. A 6-year-old boy, also confirmed to be Syed's child, was at the scene unharmed. A law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the case told News 4 he was screaming for his mother, which prompted others to call 911.
Syed and her children are all Boonton residents. She was a substitute teacher with the town school system, and worked in the after-school care program as well. Morris County prosecutors and law enforcement officials, as well as local authorities, declined in a joint statement to release additional information on the case Wednesday, saying further details would be revealed when appropriate.
The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Morris County Prosecutor’s
Office Major Crimes Unit, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Boonton Police Department Detective Bureau and Boonton Fire Department Swiftwater Rescue Team, officials said.
In announcing the grim discoveries Tuesday, Acting Morris County Prosecutor Robert Carroll said that first responders "found footprints going into the water;" the bodies were discovered at the top of the waterfall that the river flows into.
Investigators are still trying to figure out why the mother and son were in the water. Those who knew the family said Syed would sometimes go to the park pond to feed the ducks. Authorities found Syed's car in a nearby parking lot, not far from the banks of the river that locals said can run more than 20 feet deep in the retention pond.
Those who live in the area said they couldn't imagine anyone going into the river on purpose, no matter if it was summer or winter.
"Who wants to go in the water at this time of year anyway?" said Lexi Finn, who said the water is not clean. "You don't want to go in this water at all."
Dr. Abdul Raja said that the Syed family rented a second-floor apartment from his cousin. He said he was there just days ago to offer his support and condolences, as Syed's husband has been hospitalized with stage 4 cancer — and she was shouldering an unimaginable pain and loss even beyond that.
"Her brother died of coronavirus two weeks ago. Her sister was a doctor, she died three days ago in Pakistan," Dr. Raja said.
Despite the heart-wrenching sorrow, he does not believe Syed was trying to take her own life however. He thinks it had to be an accident, saying he doesn't know why she would have taken one child with her, but leave the other.
"The detective said she did all the shopping — food, groceries, hair color, everything — and he said when people commit suicide, they don't do all these things," Raja said.
"We're going to spend some time on this and do a thorough investigation to ensure that we find the facts out as to what happened here," Morris County Sheriff James Gannon said Tuesday.