Vigil for missing NJ baby Zara

February 21, 2010 8:44:05 PM PST
Family and friends held a candlelight vigil Sunday evening for 3-month old Zara Malani-lin Abdur. Dozens came to hope and pray for baby Zara at the Church of Epiphany in East Orange.

"Pray for my daughter so wherever she is, wherever she is, she will come back to me," the baby's mother, Venetta Benjamin, said.

Police say 21-year-old Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem, of Galloway, told them he threw his daughter off the Driscoll Bridge on the Garden State Parkway on Tuesday.

Abdur-Raheem has pleaded not guilty to charges including the attempted murder of the child's maternal grandmother whom police say he assaulted during the alleged abduction.

Officials say Benjamin, who has sole custody of the infant, had sought a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem around the same time Tuesday afternoon that he is accused of showing up at her mother's East Orange apartment. Benjamin's lawyer, Mitchell Liebowitz, said the baby was snatched before the restraining order was served.

Abdur-Raheem's father, Mushin Raheem, said the relationship between his son and Benjamin, who are not married, had been bumpy since they started dating as freshmen at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

"They had their problems, you know what I mean?" Raheem said, saying his son could get angry but not unusually so.

"Everybody has a temper," he said. "He's mad, you get mad, you know."

Raheem said his son and Benjamin moved into an apartment together in Galloway Township about two weeks ago. She moved out within a week, Raheem said, going to live with her mother.

Raheem said that the couple had brought the baby to his home four or five times, and that the idea that his granddaughter could be dead was weighing heavily.

"Man, I'm distraught," he said. "I'm distraught."

Raheem said that Amin Muhammad, an Atlantic City imam who was close to his son, brought the young man to his father's home Tuesday night. Police arrested Raheem there later.

He wouldn't say what his son, who aspired to go into criminal law, told him then.

"It's very difficult," Raheem said. "Everybody in my family's hurt by this."

The search for Zara was scaled back Friday after sonar units failed to find anything in the water.

Zara was reported to be wearing a pink and gray Carter's onesie and may have been wrapped in a blue sleeping bag.

If anyone has information regarding the infant or this case, they are urged to report it confidentially by calling the State Police hotline 732-264-4150.