A 21-year-old New Jersey man accused of kidnapping his 3-month-old daughter and throwing her off a bridge is described by his father as a devout Muslim who prayed regularly and is said to have immediately visited mosques and confessed to an imam following his crime.
Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem, an aspiring lawyer and student at Richard Stockton College, reportedly held a leadership position in the Muslim Student Association at Stockton, according to college senior Zaw Win. The group’s member and officer list has been disabled on its website.
He was also an intern in Washington, D.C., with the juveniles section of the Office of the Attorney General, according to March 2009 press release from Stockton College. He was fired after only a month for missing work and not completing assignments. He lashed out during his termination, and security personnel escorted him out of the building.
Abdur-Raheem allegedly forced his way into the baby’s maternal grandmother’s home at 4 p.m. on Feb. 16, punched the 60-year-old woman in the face and choked her. He took 3-month old Zara Malani-lin Abdur, and the grandmother chased him outside. She threw herself on the hood of a Dodge Caravan as Abdur-Raheem climbed into the passenger side, clutching his daughter, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger reports. According to some reports, he left with an unidentified man at the wheel, though other accounts say he was the only man in the van.
The baby’s mother, Venetta Benjamin, has full custody of the baby and is not married to Abdur-Raheem. He had reportedly threatened to harm Benjamin in the week prior to the abduction because she didn’t want to marry him. Benjamin was filing a restraining order against him at the time he abducted his daughter.
After arriving at the Driscoll Bridge and dropping his daughter into the icy cold water of the Raritan River, Abdur-Raheem is said to have immediately driven to see Imam Amin Muhammad at the Masjid Mohammed in Atlantic City, and then to Masjid un-Nur in Camden County.
His father, Muhsin Abdur-Raheem, described his son as a devout Muslim and said he prayed often. He said his son sought counsel from an imam at Masjid Muhammad following the abduction. Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem then visited his father, who called the police around 8 p.m.
Authorities stopped Abdur-Raheem’s red 2002 Dodge Caravan in Winslow Township but did not find the baby with him.
Police say Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem told them he threw the baby off the Garden State Parkway’s Driscoll Bridge. He has been charged with kidnapping and attempted murder, aggravated assault and child endangerment. The kidnapping charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in state prison, and the attempted murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison
Despite the alleged confession, he pleaded not guilty during his arraignment today.
“We’re all distraught about this,” his father told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We’re faithful people. We don’t condone any kind of violence.”
Despite an exhaustive search, dozens of emergency personnel have been unable to find the baby. Authorities say her chances for survival are slim at this point.
Asked if he believes she may survive, the father said, “I hope it’s a miracle.”