Video Clues Emerge in Mysterious Death of One of State's Top Judges
New evidence emerges in the death of Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam - at least seven surveillance videos that show her walking in Harlem in the hours before her death. This as her husband speaks for the first time since her body was found in the Hudson River . NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report:
Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam's movements were last captured on three surveillance videos in Riverbank State Park along the Hudson River just after midnight on April 12. Her body was found in the water at 1:30 that afternoon..
"We have her about about 12:20 in the morning at three different locations in the park walking around," said Christopher McCormack, deputy chief of Manhattan North Detectives.
In addition to the three park videos, police say they have spotted the judge on footage from four other surveillance cameras in Harlem, one of them near the judge's brownstone on West 131st St. It shows her leaving her home shortly after 9 p.m. that night.
"The video shows her walking by herself, walking westbound on 131st Street, and then walking northbound on Eighth Avenue and Across 145 street. So we have her in different spots, always walking by herself, nobody behind her," McCormack said.
Police are not releasing the footage out of respect to the judge's family.
Because she was alone in each video, the images support suggestions that Abdus-Salaam took her own life and was not murdered. But police are not yet classifying her death as a suicide as they continue to look for clues. Their focus is now the three hours that span the videos.
"It doesn't matter what stature. It is sad. The family needs some closure," McCormack siad.
The judge's husband, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, is downplaying any suggestion she might have been depressed and committed suicide. He issued a statement Wednesday saying, "Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality."
Jacobs and the police asked anyone with information about her final hours to come forward.
In 2013, Abdus-Salaam became the first African-American woman on the court of appeals, the state's highest court. She was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
"This was an extraordinary woman. Really, just an accomplished, polished, beautiful person," Cuomo said Wednesday. "And before we get caught up in rumors, I would rather let the investigators do their work, come up with a conclusion, and then we'll respond."
Sources tell NY1 the judge had a lot of water in her lungs when her body was pulled from the Hudson River. They say that strongly suggests she was alive when she went into the water.
Her body was discovered floating several feet from the riverbank. There were no signs of trauma. She was wearing the same clothes as in the videos.
The medical examiner is working with police to determine the cause of death.