Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam (Tim Roske)
Members of the family of the late Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, whose body was found floating in the Hudson River last week, said Wednesday reports she committed suicide have “no basis in reality” and called on any persons with knowledge of what happened in her final hours to step forward.
The statement from Abdus-Salaam’s family, released by a public relations firm it has retained, comes one day after police said they are investigating her death as “suspicious.”
“Despite the ongoing investigation, some media outlets and others have conjectured that Sheila was the victim of a ‘probable suicide,’” said Abdus-Salaam’s widower, Rev. Canon Gregory Jacobs, in the statement. “These reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death.”
The release also contains statements from Abdus-Salaam’s relatives that, contrary to media reports in the wake of Abdus-Salaam’s death, neither her mother nor her brother took their own lives.
Abdus-Salaam’s mother died in 2012 at the age of 92, the statement reads, and her brother died of lung cancer in 2014. Abdus-Salaam was born Sheila Turner and Jacobs was the judge’s third husband.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has yet to release its findings of the investigation into Abdus-Salaam’s death.
On Tuesday, New York City Police Department 26th Precinct issued a notice calling for anyone with information about her death to come forward.
The notice states that Abdus-Salaam was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt that zips in front, black sweatpants, white ankle socks and white New Balance sneakers.
“When a body is found floating in a river, it is deemed suspicious in nature,” an NYPD spokesperson said in an email to the Law Journal. “Absent any clear signs of criminality, the cause of death is determined by the Medical Examiner. If these findings are inconclusive, then the detectives conduct further investigation in an effort to establish any such information or evidence which may assist in determining the possible circumstances under which the victim’s death occurred. Until such a determination is made, the death may be classified as suspicious, in that the circumstances have not been clearly established.”
According to a source close to the investigation, investigators spotted Abdus-Salaam on video footage from about 8:30 p.m. on the evening before she was found dead but saw no evidence that she was attacked by an assailant. The source said that investigators are looking hard to ensure nothing is missed.
The New York Post reported Tuesday that a deliveryman who handed her a package on the morning of April 12 at her apartment in Harlem was the last to see her alive and that Jacobs reported her missing at noon that day after she didn’t show up for work.
The Post also reported there was no signs of struggle or forced entry at her apartment. Citing unnamed sources, the Post reported that an autopsy revealed that there was water in Abdus-Salaam’s lungs and slight bruising around her neck, but that her eyes did not show the type of bleeding that tends to occur during a strangulation.