The body of a 3-month-old baby girl who was thrown by her father off a Garden State Parkway bridge this winter was apparently found Saturday by people walking along the southern bank of the Raritan River in Sayreville, state police said.
Sgt. First Class Stephen Jones said DNA tests might be needed before the body could be conclusively identified as that of Zara Malani-Lin Abdur-Raheem, who has been missing since she was reported abducted by her father, Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem, on Feb. 16.
Abdur-Raheem, a Galloway Township college student, pleaded not guilty last month to a charge that he murdered his daughter. He has also pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges related to the alleged abduction. He was held awaiting trial, with bail set at $2 million.
Jones said "the clothing and wrappings in which the child were found are consistent with the descriptions given" after Zara's disappearance. He said that an autopsy was planned and that the baby's mother, Venetta Benjamin, had been notified.
Paula Dow, New Jersey's attorney general, ordered an inquiry after Zara's abduction raised questions regarding why the incident had not triggered an Amber Alert, the system adopted around the country to help locate missing children.
Police said that Zara was taken forcefully from her maternal grandmother's home in East Orange, and that Abdur-Raheem hit the grandmother with a van as she tried to stop him from fleeing with the infant.
At the time of the abduction, Benjamin was in court obtaining a protective order against Abdur-Raheem, authorities said. She had gone to police a day before.
Investigators said Abdur-Raheem, who was arrested at his father's house in Winslow Township hours after the abduction, told them he had thrown the infant from his vehicle on the parkway's Driscoll Bridge. Rescue teams using boats, helicopters, and dogs searched for at least three days but found no sign of the baby, according to the Associated Press.
Dow called the incident "a horrific case of domestic violence."