The death of Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, whose body was found in the Hudson River, has been declared by the NYPD as a suspicious,” exactly one week after her body surfaced.
According to AMNewYork, detectives have recovered four surveillance videos of Judge Abdus-Salaam walking alone the night prior to her body being washed up near West 132nd Street in Harlem. Although the footage has not been released to the public, reports state that Abdus-Salaam is seen on camera walking west toward the river the night of April 11.
Abdus-Salaam, who served as an associate judge on The New York State Appeals Court, made history as the first Black woman to serve in that role.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told NBC 4 New York that Abdus-Salaam spent the weekend with her husband in New Jersey, as the two lived in separate houses.
Her husband, Rev. Canon Gregory A. Jacobs, last saw her Sunday night around 7 p.m. According to Boyce, the last person that Abdus-Salaam spoke with was her assistant, roughly 30 hours before her body was found.
The trailblazing jurist was known as a liberal voice, often siding with the people over corporations. Several of her decisions, including the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C., which expanded the definition of a parent, set precedent.
The news of the 65-year-old woman’s body being found has left friends and colleagues of the esteemed judge shocked.
Here’s What We Know About Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam And Her Case So Far:
She Became A Judge After Learning That Her Great-Grandfather Was A Slave
According to The Village Voice, Abdus-Salaam, in a 2014 interview with The Impact of Knowledge, recalled her historical roots by saying, “my grandfather, who died when I was in high school, grew up on a farm in Arrington, Virginia. And in researching that history, I discovered that I am the great-granddaughter of slaves.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Who Appointed Her In 2013, Released A Statement About Her Death
"I was proud to appoint her to the state’s highest court and am deeply saddened by her passing... on behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to her family, loved ones and colleagues during this trying and difficult time,” the statement read.
She Earned Her J.D. At Columbia University And Began Her Career At The East Brooklyn Legal Services
Abdus-Salaam attended Barnard College where she received her Bachelor’s Degree; she went on to obtain her law degree from Columbia University.
Gillian Lester, Dean of Columbia Law School, once wrote that the judge “sets an example for generations to come, as much for her brilliance, moral conviction, and remarkable professional achievements as for her kindness, modesty, and understated yet unfailing generosity.”
Despite Various Reports, It’s Been Confirmed That She Was Not Muslim
Although it has been widely reported that Judge Abdus-Salaam was a Muslim, a spokesman for the NY Court of Appeals told the New York Times that she was not. According to NBC News, Abdus-Salaam took her first husband's last name and continued to use it professionally after the divorce.
Her Husband, Rev. Canon Gregory Jacobs, Disputes Any Allegations That She Committed Suicide
Her widow, Rev. Jacobs is a pastor at Newark, New Jersey church. Prior to her death, the couple had been married for eight months. A week after her body was found, Rev. Jacobs told NBC News, “reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death.”
“Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality.”
She Grew Up In Washington As One Of Seven Children
Abdus-Salaam was born in Washington and grew up with six siblings. She attended the district's public schools
Despite Previous Reports, Her Mother And Brother Did Not Commit Suicide
In a statement made on the judge's website, the family refuted earlier claims that Abdus-Salaam's brother and mother committed suicide:
"Sheila’s mother, the matriarch of our family who died at age 92 in 2012, did not take her own life. Shelia’s younger brother, who died in 2014, lost his battle with terminal lung cancer."
She Was Classmates With Eric Holder, The First Attorney General Of The United States
Eric Holder, who was the first Black person to serve as Attorney General, attended Columbia Law School with Abdus-Salaam.
According to The New York Post, Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Albany to honor her when she was being sworn in.
“I read that during her confirmation process, Judge Abdus-Salaam received a standing ovation every time she appeared in public before members of the Legislature. Now, as someone who has appeared a number of times before Congress, I can tell you just how extraordinary that is,” Holder once said of the judge.
The Process To Fill Her Vacancy Is Underway
According to a Newsday report, The Commission on Judicial Nomination has recently announced that the screening committee for filling posts on the state Court of Appeals will accept applications through May 19.
Tanya Christian contributed to this report.