NEW YORK — Police say the death of New York State Appeals Court Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam is being treated as “suspicious” since they’re still trying to determine her exact manner of death.
The NYPD harbor unit retrieved Abdus-Salaam’s body from the Hudson River last Wednesday, a day after she was reported missing.
Her seemingly inexplicable death hit those who knew the judge like a physical shock.
“It was like someone punched me in the face. I just couldn’t believe that this person who I’ve known for over 30 years is gone,” friend Randolph McLaughlin said last week. “I was on the phone with judges last night, court workers. People were literately weeping, weeping.”
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appointed Abdus-Salaam to the state’s Court of Appeals in 2013, called her a “trailblazing jurist.”
“As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer,” Cuomo said. “Through her writings, her wisdom and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come.”
Former Gov. David Paterson knew Abdus-Salaam for 45 years.
“I can’t think of a person who could even serve on the United States Supreme Court that would be more prepared or apt,” he told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman. “Wonderful human being, kind of like Rudyard Kipling wrote, ‘to walk with kings and retain the common touch.’ That was Sheila.”
Abdus-Salaam was also the first Muslim woman judge in the United States. In a tweet, Mayor Bill de Blasio called her a “humble pioneer.”
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said her colleague will be “missed deeply.”
Police sources told CBS2 Abdus-Salaam’s family and friends said the judge had been struggling with depression.
Since here were no signs of trauma reported, the NYPD is trying to determine how and why her body ended up in the Hudson.
Although her death is being considered suspicious, police say there are still no signs of obvious criminality at this time.