Authorities may have found the infant allegedly thrown off a bridge by her father two months ago.
A pair of surveyors working near the southern bank of the Raritan River in Sayreville, Middlesex County, called police at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday after spotting the tiny body near the shoreline, State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said.
Investigators think the child could be Zara Malani-lin Abdur-Raheem, whose father Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem, of Galloway Township, is accused of throwing the then-3-month-old baby into the Raritan from the southbound side of the Garden State Parkway’s Driscoll Bridge on Feb. 16.
Police launched an exhaustive search that lasted four days, then scaled back the hunt to just regular boat patrols.
The child found Saturday was wearing clothing that matched the description given of Zara’s clothing, but authorities will need to use DNA testing to confirm the identity, according to a statement from State Police.
Abdur-Raheem, a 21-year-old criminal justice major at Richard Stockton College in Galloway, has pleaded not guilty to murder and kidnapping charges. He remains jailed on $2.7 million bail at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark.
The body found Saturday was located 2,000 feet east of the Driscoll, closer to Route 35’s Victory Bridge.
The discovery comes two days after the state Attorney General’s Office announced it would revamp its policy on Amber Alerts to include domestic kidnappings. Previously, New Jersey guidelines excluded such scenarios from the statewide kidnapping alerts.
Abdur-Raheem drove over the Driscoll after leaving East Orange, Essex County, where the child’s maternal grandmother lives and had been babysitting when Abdur-Raheem allegedly showed up.
He punched the 60-year-old woman and almost hit her with his car when she tried to stop him from taking the baby, police have said.
Abdur-Raheem then drove south on the parkway, stopping on the Driscoll to throw the child into the water, and then continued on to Atlantic City to confer with leaders at Masjid al Muhammed Mosque, authorities said. They drove him to his parents’ house in Winslow Township, Camden County.
Police arrested him there at about 8 p.m., four hours after he confronted Zara’s grandmother.
Calls placed to the mosque Saturday were not returned.
Abdur-Raheem grew up in the city and graduated from Atlantic City High School in 2006.
Zara’s mother Venetta Benjamin, also a Stockton student, had filed for a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem the day he allegedly took their daughter. He had not been served with the order when he arrived at Benjamin’s mother’s apartment.
Stockton barred Abdur-Raheem from campus within a week of his arrest. College officials did not respond Saturday to questions about his current status there.
A public defender is handling Abdur-Raheem’s case. The state Public Defender’s Office declined comment Saturday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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