State Court Of Appeals Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam Found Dead In Harlem

A pioneering state judge found floating in the Hudson River likely took her own life after a recent battle with depression, a police source said Thursday.

State Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam began taking medication for her darkening moods just a few weeks before her apparent suicide, a well-placed court source told the Daily News.

Police investigating the judge’s disappearance found her meds, according to the court source.

It was unclear if Abdus-Salaam left behind a suicide note, and cops were awaiting the results of an autopsy before saying anything more, the police source told The News.

“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.”

The Medical Examiner’s office announced the cause and manner of the judge’s death required additional investigation. An autopsy was conducted Thursday.

The judge’s body was found floating along the Hudson River shoreline at W. 132nd St. around 2 p.m. Wednesday, clad in gym attire and sneakers.

A 911 call alerted cops to the corpse spotted about a mile from Abdus-Salaam’s Harlem home. Boyce said she was carrying a MetroCard last used Monday in a 42nd St. subway station.

Detectives were searching the judge’s neighborhood for video footage that might explain what happened to Abdus-Salaam.

The 65-year-old jurist, hailed as the first black woman appointed to the state’s highest court, was reported missing by her husband on Tuesday morning.

Her spouse, Rev. Gregory Jacobs, declined comment when approached by The News outside his Newark home. The couple each owned their own home.


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The shocking disappearance and discovery of her body rattled her many friends and colleagues across the state.

“I just saw her on the subway the other day,” said former Harlem Assemblyman Keith Wright. “She was always a very calming, beautiful presence … She became one of the brightest and most respected legal minds in the U.S.”

The court source said Abdus-Salaam appeared lighthearted as she laughed with colleagues last week at an annual lawyers luncheon.

Abdus-Salaam was nominated by Gov. Cuomo in 2013 for a seat on the state’s Court of Appeals, the high point of a legal career that began with her Columbia University School of Law degree.

Among her classmates: Future U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

She served as a Manhattan Supreme Court judge for 14 years before Cuomo’s promotion. The governor praised Abdus-Salaam for her “unshakable moral compass.”

Harlem neighbor Pat Miller, 56, couldn’t accept the idea that Abdus-Salaam took her own life.

“I could not imagine her doing anything to herself to harm herself,” he said. “She’s not that type of person … I’d like to know what happened. I would really like to know.”

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