The first female Muslim judge in the US could have taken her own life, say police
The first female Muslim judge in the US who was found dead hours after being reported missing could have taken her own life, say police.
Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s body was found floating in the Hudson river earlier this week.
The pioneering state judge recently started taking medication to help with mental health issues, police said on Thursday, and she could have taken her own life.
Police found her medication, sources told the Daily News, and it was not clear whether she left a suicide note.
Police have said they are awaiting the results of an autopsy, which took place on Thursday, before issuing futher statements.
“There are no apparent injuries to her body,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce.
“It appears to be non-criminal … There is no apparent trauma. No physical abnormality at all.”
Her body was found a mile from her Harlem home in the Hudson river, and she was carrying a MetroCard last used on Monday.
Police are also looking into CCTV footage from her neighbourhood for further clues.
Her husband, Reverend Gregory Jacobs, reported her missing after she called in sick on Tuesday and did not turn up to her office on Wednesday.
During her career, the judge helped require the state of New York’s parenting laws, which allowed same-sex couples to seek help during custody disputes.
This included getting rid of conventions which defined ‘parents’ as a man and a woman.
The wrote at the time: “We agree that, in light of more recently delineated legal principles, the definition of ‘parent’ established by this Court 25 years ago in Alison D. has become unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships.
“Accordingly, today, we overrule Alison D. and hold that where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody.”
The associate judge of the New York Court of Appeals was the first African-American to hold a seat on that court and the first female Muslim judge.
Speaking to the New York Post, anonymous sources said there were no signs of trauma or foul play, but that police are investigating the judge’s death.
The 65-year-old graduated from Barnard College in 1974, and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1977.
She was nominated to the New York Court of Appeals by Governor Cuomo in 2013, and was unanimously approved.
Of her death, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said: “I’m deeply saddened at having lost a dear friend and colleague, and the court has suffered a terrible blow. She was a superb jurist and an even more superb human being.I knew her for many, many years. To some degree, we grew up together in the court.
“I’ve known her in all her different roles in the court. It’s just so shocking. She was a very gentile, lovely lady and judge. If you ask anyone about her, people would say only the most wonderful things. That’s why it makes it even more difficult to understand.”