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Wanted In Toms River: Have You Seen This Man?

UPDATE: Galloway Man Found Guilty of Murder After Throwing Daughter Off Bridge

Shamsiddin Abdur-Raheem has been found guilty following nearly a week of jury deliberations.

GALLOWAY, NJ — A New Jersey man accused of murder by throwing his three-month old daughter off a bridge on the Garden State Parkway has been found guilty of murder, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced Friday afternoon.

Shamsiddin Abdur-Raheem, 24, of Galloway, had been accused of murder by throwing his daughter, Zara Malani-Lin Abdur Raheem, out of the passenger side of his Dodge Caravan off the Alfred E. Driscoll Bridge on the Garden State Parkway in Woodbridge Township 140 feet in the Raritan River on Feb. 16, 2010.

The van was parked on the shoulder of the Parkway when he threw her out the window, Chiesa said.

He was found guilty by a Middlesex County jury following a two-week trial and four days of deliberation.

Vanetta Benjamin, Zara's mother, gave a brief statement to a room full of press on Friday afternoon, thanking the law enforcement and legal teams involved in the case.

Surrounded by law officials and members of her family, Benjamin, ended her statement by saying “God is good.”

She did not take questions from reporters.

Chiesa said the verdict showed the value placed on Zara’s life.

“Today, justice was granted for baby Zara,” he said, describing the verdict as one that “does not prompt celebration,” but still necessary.

Chiesa said he hoped the verdict brought “some measure of peace,” to Zara’s family.

Deputy Attorney General Andrew C. Fried said that he was asked why the verdict took time to be returned, which he said reflected a serious and attentive jury.

Abdur-Raheem was also found guilty of kidnapping and two counts of simple assault in connection of the kidnapping of his daughter from an East Orange apartment belonging to the baby's grandmother, Chiesa said.

The baby was living with her mother and grandmother in the apartment.

He was acquitted of the charge of attempted murder of the baby's grandmother, but he was convicted of assault and assault with an automobile, according to Chiesa.

Fried said Abdur-Raheem faces 30 years to life in state prison on the murder charge, plus a consecutive sentence of up to 30 years on the kidnapping charge.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 7, he said.

“We are grateful to the jurors, who had to listen and watch as the heartbreaking events in this tragic case of domestic violence were re-created, and who by their verdict delivered justice for Zara, her mother and the grandmother who tried to defend her,” Chiesa said in a release. “Our attorney, detectives and entire trial team deserve great credit for their skilled handling of this case.  It’s important that, by their efforts, they affirmed that Zara’s life was of great value and asserted that the man who took her life must face the full consequences of his crime.”

“From the moment police heard that a baby was thrown from the Driscoll Bridge, this case commanded our attention,” Division of Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor said in a release. “The rescue efforts sadly were doomed, but an excellent team of investigators and attorneys, led by members of the State Police Major Crime Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice and assisted by other law enforcement agencies, immediately began a painstaking pursuit of evidence and justice, which has brought us to this verdict.”

Vanetta Benjamin had custody of the baby and had procured a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem the day the baby was killed, Chiesa said. At the time of the kidnapping, the baby was being watched by the grandmother, Leno Benjamin, Chiesa said.

Abdur-Raheem went to the apartment around 4 p.m. that day, Chiesa said. According to Chiesa, Benjamin asked Abdur-Raheem to leave, but he refused. He then grabbed her arm before striking the 60-year-old Benjamin in the head, choked her and kidnapped his daughter.

Surveillance video shows Benjamin followed Abdur-Raheem out of the apartment and attempted to stop him, but he struck her with the van, Chiesa said.

He then headed south. After throwing his daughter into the river, he went to Atlantic City to see his imam, his Islamic religious leader, and confessed to him what he had done, according to Chiesa. The imam drove him to the home of his parents, where he confessed to his parents as well, Chiesa said.

He was arrested by State Police at 8 p.m. that night. The baby's body was found by surveyors two months later, on April 24, 2010.

An autopsy determined that she died from blunt force trauma and drowning, Chiesa said.

During the trial, Abdur-Raheem testified that his daughter appeared to be dead before he tossed her from the bridge.  He said she fell to the floor and hit her head when he was tussling with the grandmother, Chiesa said.

D September 09, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Dear GOD.... Sometimes you do make mistakes........WHAT PLANET DID THIS CRETIN COME FROM??? What nature of human being throws an infant off a bridge??? If I'm the judge.....LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE IN A HARD LABOR MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON or LETHAL INJECTION. We don't need people like this on the planet. Period.
joani mitchell September 10, 2012 at 01:34 AM
john jay this story was about a little girl that was murdered and her family has to read your tripe about obama and clinton and all your wacked out political theories. do you think the family of this little girl want to read how you used this story to push your tea party gibberish? give it a rest already.
-She September 11, 2012 at 03:17 AM
I couldn't agree more!!!
al davis September 11, 2012 at 12:56 PM
was it absolutely necessary to give him a trial? just throw him off the same bridge
Joe R September 11, 2012 at 02:13 PM
We live in a country that believes in laws and that assumes that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. We do not believe in a crazed blood-thirsty lynch mob ready to string up someone without a trial. We go through this nonsense every time some horrible act of criminality occurs; people in the comments section screaming for blood, mob rule and vigilante "justice." Even the worst criminal monster is entitled to legal representation, due process and a trial. Because it does happen that innocent people have been accused and if you or anybody were falsely accused, you would want due process and a fair trial. I am appalled and enraged at this heinous act of depravity and cruelty but we do have a legal system in place which should be respected.

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