The death of Sheila Abdus-Salaam has been ruled a suicide. Abdus-Salaam — the first female muslim judge to be appointed to New York’s highest court — drowned herself, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner announced in a press release Wednesday (July 26).
Abdus-Salaam’s body was found floating in the Hudson River on April 12. Though her death was once deemed “suspicious,” the NYPD closed and transferred the investigation over the city’s coroner’s office in May.
According to the New York Daily News, Abdus-Salaam was rumored to have battled with depression prior to her death. A CNN report claims her brother died from suicide in 2014.
Surveillance footage reportedly captured Abdus-Salaam seven times in the hours leading up to her death. The apparent footage shows the 65-year-old judge walking around Harlem between W. 131st and W. 145th streets.
A final recording of Abdus-Salaam allegedly shows her headed to the Hudson River by way of the W. 145th street entrance at Riverbank State Park, the Daily News reports.
A week after her death, Abdu-Salaam’s husband, Rev. Gregory Jacobs, denied suicide claims and urged the media to “refrain from baseless commentary” without “conclusive evidence.”
“Despite the ongoing investigation, some media outlets and others have conjectured that Sheila was the victim of a ‘probable suicide.’ These reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death,” Jacobs wrote in a statement. “Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality. And in the absence of any conclusive evidence, we believe such speculations to be unwarranted and irresponsible.”
“We therefore call upon the media and responsible public officials to refrain from any baseless commentary and conjecture concerning the circumstances surrounding the death of our beloved Sheila.”
Jacobs did not speak out on the medical examiner’s findings.
Abdus-Salaam, a Washington D.C. native and Columbia Law School graduate, began her 40-year legal career as an attorney with Brooklyn Legal Services. From there, she became an assistant attorney general for the New York State Department of Law in civil rights and real estate financing, and would go on to join the New York City Civil Court. She also served as a New York Supreme Court Justice for more than a decade before becoming associate justice in the court’s appellate division.
In 2013, Abdus-Salaam became the first black woman to be appointed to the New York Court of Appeals.