A South Jersey man found guilty of murdering his three-month old baby by throwing her into the Raritan River in 2010 was sentenced to life in prison, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced on Wednesday.
Shamsiddin Abdur-Raheem, 24, of Galloway, was also sentenced to 30 years in prison, to be served consecutively, for kidnapping, Chiesa said. As a result, Abdur-Raheem must serve 89 years without the possibility of parole.
He was found guilty of throwing his baby, Zara, off a Garden State Parkway bridge into the river on Sept. 7, following a two-week trial in New Brunswick. Abdur-Raheem was found guilty of murder, kidnapping and endangering the welfare of a child. He was also found guilty of two counts of simple assault, after attacking the baby's grandmother.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the child endangerment count, which will run concurrently with the murder and kidnapping sentences, and one year in prison for the two assaults, according to Chiesa. Each assault carries with it a six-month sentence, which must be served consecutive to the previous sentence, Chiesa said, meaning the full sentence is for life plus 31 years, with 89 years parole ineligibility.
According to the No Early Release Act (NERA), a life sentence is one defined as 75 years, for purposes of calculating the term of parole ineligibility, Chiesa said. According to Chiesa, Abdur-Raheem must serve 63 3/4 years, or 85 percent of his sentence, without the possibility of parole. He must serve an additional 25 1/2 years without parole for the kidnapping, resulting in a total of 89 1/2 years without parole, Chiesa said.
On February 16, 2010, Abdur-Raheem broke into Zara's grandmother's apartment, where the baby was staying with her mother and grandmother, according to evidence presented during the trial. The mother, Vanetta Benjamin, had custody of Zara and had obtained a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem.
He struck the 60-year-old grandmother, Leno Benjamin, over the head, then hit her with his van while he was kidnapping the baby, according to the evidence presented at trial.
He was driving back to Atlantic City when he stopped on the Garden State Parkway and threw Zara 140 feet into the river, according to the evidence. Zara's body was found on the bank of the river two months later.
At trial, Abdur-Raheem claimed Zara was dead before he threw her in the river.
After throwing Zara into the river, Abdur-Raheem confessed to his imam and his parents. He was arrested at his parents' home in Winslow Township the night he committed the crime, Chiesa said.
Following his arrest, Abdur-Raheem gave several accounts to the police, admitting what he had done, Chiesa said.
“This defendant murdered a baby, stealing her away from those who loved her most, ending her innocent life in a horrifying act of violence,” Chiesa said. “Justice demanded that he receive this sentence, which will keep him in prison for the remainder of his life.”
“This prison sentence closes the book on a very tragic case of domestic violence,” Director of the Division of Criminal Justice Stephen J. Taylor said. “The guilty verdict secured by our trial attorney was the result of a strong investigation led by the State Police Major Crime Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice, with critical assistance from local and county agencies. I commend all involved.”