NEWARK, N.J. – A New Jersey man who allegedly told police he threw his 3-month-old daughter off a bridge into an icy river was charged Wednesday with her murder.
Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem, of Galloway Township, pleaded not guilty last week to charges including the attempted murder of the child's maternal grandmother. Police say he assaulted the woman at her East Orange apartment and ripped the child from her arms on Feb. 16, the same day the girl's mother sought a restraining order against him.
Attorney General Paula Dow said the search for the baby was ongoing. Despite the lack of a body, there was enough evidence to corroborate Abdur-Raheem's account and to file the first-degree murder charge.
"While our ongoing exhaustive search has not located the victim, we are moving forward with our investigation and our pursuit of justice in this tragic case of domestic violence," Dow said in a statement.
A message left for the public defender's office, which has been representing Abdur-Raheem, was not immediately returned.
Abdur-Raheem remains in the Essex County jail. His bail has been increased to $2 million on the new charge, which was filed in Middlesex County and carries a possible sentence of 30 years to life in prison.
The search for the baby, Zara Malani-lin Abdur, has centered around the Garden State Parkway's Driscoll Bridge, which spans the Raritan River between Sayreville and Woodbridge.
The child's mother, Venetta Benjamin, had sole custody and had left the infant in her mother's care while she sought a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem in a Newark court.
Abdur-Raheem allegedly abducted the child from her grandmother's home, striking the woman with his van as she attempted to block his escape, authorities said in a court complaint. Abdur-Raheem headed south, parking his vehicle on the southbound shoulder of the highway before pushing or throwing the baby from the front passenger window and into the river, authorities said.
The case prompted the attorney general's office to review state guidelines for the issuance of Amber Alerts.
An Amber Alert, issued by law enforcement and distributed through emergency broadcasting networks, are meant to alert the public and seek their help in child-abduction cases. They are not routinely issued in custody disputes or parental abduction cases.