Baby's body officially identified as baby Zara

May 3, 2010 7:21:35 PM PDT
A body discovered on a riverbank last month has been identified as the daughter of a man who is accused of throwing her off a bridge in February. DNA testing has confirmed that Zara Malani-Lin Abdur-Raheem's body was found on the bank of the Raritan River on April 24, New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow said Monday. The 3-month-old had been missing since February, when her biological father allegedly abducted her and threw her from a Garden State Parkway bridge while the girl's mother sought a restraining order against him.

Prosecutors believe Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem killed the baby hours after taking her from her grandmother's apartment in East Orange. Abdur-Raheem, 21, of Galloway Township in southern New Jersey, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges and is being held on $2.7 million bail.

The case prompted a review of the state's Amber Alert guidelines after it was discovered that no alert was issued during a 4-hour window between the child's abduction and Abdur-Raheem's arrest.

To prevent misuse, Amber Alerts generally aren't issued when there is suspected parental involvement in an abduction. Last week, Dow announced that state police will issue the public emergency notifications in cases where the abductor is believed to be a family member.

Authorities have said Abdur-Raheem took the baby from her grandmother's apartment around 4 p.m. on Feb. 16, choking and assaulting the woman and then striking her with his van as she attempted to block his escape.

Abdur-Raheem later parked his vehicle on the southbound shoulder on the Driscoll Bridge, which spans the Raritan River between Sayreville and Woodbridge, and threw or dropped the baby from the front passenger window, authorities said.

Richard Barker, an attorney representing Abdur-Raheem on the murder charge, did not comment on the identification of the baby Monday.

The infant's 23-year-old mother, Venetta Benjamin, had sole custody and had left the girl in her mother's care while she sought a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem, authorities said in February. She got the order on Feb. 16, but police said Abdur-Raheem took the child before it could be served.

Mitchell Liebowitz, an attorney representing Benjamin, said Monday he had filed a legal notice that he intends to sue East Orange police because they allegedly turned Benjamin away on Feb.

15 when she attempted to get a restraining order and told her to come back the next day.

Sgt. Andrew DiElmo, spokesman for East Orange police, declined to comment on the case due to the pending litigation.


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