New York City’s medical examiner’s office ruled Wednesday that Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s drowning in April was a suicide, the New York Daily News reports.
The body of Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman to serve on New York’s highest court, was found dead in the Hudson River on April 12. Finding no signs of criminality, the police closed the investigation on May 3.
According to the New York Times, investigators at first thought her death was “suspicious.” However, they began to lean toward suicide after viewing surveillance video that showed Abdus-Salaam, 65, walking around for hours in Riverbank State Park, about a half-mile north of where her body was found.
Abdus-Salaam’s husband, the Rev. Gregory Jacobs, had rejected any notion of suicide, saying anyone who knew his wife well would dismiss that claim, though the judge was believed to suffer from depression, the Daily News said.
The judge was one of seven children in a poor family. She grew up in the District of Columbia, and earned a law degree from Columbia University, where she was a classmate of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Abdus-Salaam began her career as a public defender in Brooklyn, and later became an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State attorney’s office.
Holder attended her swearing-in ceremony in 2013 as an associated judge on the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest bench.