Husband of dead New York judge: Suicide speculation is ‘irresponsible’
(CNN) — Speculation about the possible suicide of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the New York state judge whose body was found in the Hudson River last week, is “unwarranted and irresponsible,” her husband said in a statement Wednesday night.
“Those of us who loved Sheila and knew her well do not believe that these unfounded conclusions have any basis in reality,” Rev. Canon Gregory A. Jacobs said. “And in the absence of any conclusive evidence, we believe such speculations to be unwarranted and irresponsible.”
The statement comes as law enforcement continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding Abdus-Salaam’s death last Wednesday. The 65-year-old was the first African-American woman to serve on New York’s highest court.
Footage from surveillance cameras shows Abdus-Salaam walking alone near the Hudson River on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. and again just after midnight, the NYPD said. In the videos, she is wearing the same clothes that she had on when her body was discovered Wednesday afternoon, police said.
No suicide note has been found. The initial autopsy was inconclusive, and the cause and manner of death remain pending, according to a Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman.
“Until such a determination is made, the death may be classified as suspicious, in that the circumstances have not been clearly established,” the NYPD said in a statement to CNN.
Law enforcement sources told CNN last week that the investigation points to a possible suicide. Abdus-Salaam’s brother committed suicide three years ago, and Abdus-Salaam had been stressed at work, two law enforcement sources said.
But Rev. Jacobs rejected that assertion and called on media and public officials to refrain from “baseless commentary and conjecture” about her death.
“Despite the ongoing investigation, some media outlets and others have conjectured that Sheila was the victim of a ‘probable suicide,'” he said. “These reports have frequently included unsubstantiated comments concerning my wife’s possible mental and emotional state of mind at the time of her death.”
Abdus-Salaam’s death sparked a round of posthumous praise from New York officials. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised her as a “trailblazing jurist and a force for good,” and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called her a “humble pioneer.”
You can read Jacobs’ full statement below:
“It has been a week since our beloved Sheila’s body was discovered in the Hudson River. Since that day, the New York Police Department has conducted a vigorous investigation, but has been unable to determine a conclusive cause of death. A recent statement by the NYPD now calls the circumstances involving the investigation ‘suspicious.’ We are truly thankful for their efforts and pray that the facts will ultimately be made known.
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. 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.
Sheila loved Harlem and its people and lived there for nearly all of her adult life. I now join with the NYPD in asking anyone in the neighborhood to step forward with any information that might help us determine what may have happened during those hours before her death.
Finally, I wish to thank each and every one of you — family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and admirers — for your continued prayers, personal stories, and words of encouragement and support.”