NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A man who kidnapped his infant daughter from her grandmother’s home and tossed the child over a New Jersey bridge into the icy river below was convicted Friday of her murder.Shamsidden Abdur-Raheem, 24, bowed his head and showed little reaction as guilty verdicts for murder, kidnapping and related charges were read in state superior court in New Brunswick.
The child’s mother, Venetta Benjamin, who testified during the trial, let out a quick gasp of air, tears rolling down her cheeks as the verdict was read. She later thanked all those “who have worked tirelessly on this case and verdict, to ensure justice for my daughter,” adding; “God is good.”
New Jersey’s attorney general lauded the verdict, saying it was “a chapter in a tragedy, but a chapter that needed to be written,” in a case that prompted an overhaul of the state’s rules on issuing missing child alerts.
Abdur-Raheem admitted during the trial that he threw 3-month-old Zara Malani-Lin Abdur-Raheem off a Garden State Parkway bridge into the Raritan River on Feb. 16, 2010. But he claimed he believed the child already was dead from injuries she suffered during a fight with the baby’s grandmother.
The infant’s body was found on the shore of the Raritan two months later by passers-by.
The jury acquitted Abdur-Raheem of attempted murder of the baby’s maternal grandmother, Leno Benjamin. The grandmother had been caring for the infant at her East Orange apartment while the child’s mother was obtaining a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem. Jurors convicted him on lesser charges related to Abdur-Raheem assaulting the grandmother while taking the child.
Abdur-Raheem testified that during a struggle with the child’s grandmother, the baby fell and hit her head.
But a state forensic anthropologist testified the skull fractures found on the baby were made at or about the time of death and that they were caused by a significant fall and not one of four feet or less.