NEW YORK — The cause and manner of death of Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African-American woman to serve on the New York Court of Appeals, was released Wednesday, months after her body washed up on the shore of the Hudson River.
The city’s medical examiner concluded that Abdus-Salaam died by drowning. The manner of death is suicide.
The late judge was found dead in April. The following month, the NYPD closed its investigation into her death.
Unable to locate any witnesses, police relied on security video to try to retrace the last hours of Abdus-Salaam’s life. She spent her workweeks in the city at an apartment on West 131st Street in Harlem.
After staying home from work on April 11, she was seen on video leaving the home at around 8:30 p.m. and walking several blocks north, then eventually west on West 145th Street to an elevated park on the Hudson River, where a final video shows her alone there at about 12:30 a.m. on April 12, according to two law enforcement officials.
Her body was found in the water about 13 hours later without obvious signs of trauma. She was in the same clothes — sweatshirt, sweatpants and white sneakers — as seen in the videos.
The 65-year-old Abdus-Salaam was raised with six siblings in a working-class family in Washington. She graduated from Barnard College before attending Columbia Law School, where she was on a committee organizing a 40th class reunion in June.
After she rose from a lawyer for low-income Brooklyn residents to state court justice, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed her to the state Court of Appeals in 2013. She once said that she wanted people to “consider me to be a judge who listens and gives them a fair shot.”
Her death brought an outpouring of accolades. Cuomo called her a “trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”