The grandmother of an infant thrown into the Raritan River testified Tuesday at the murder trial of Shamsiddin Abdur-Raheem, the baby’s father, who is charged with killing Zara on Feb. 16, 2010, according to The Star-Ledger.
Leno Benjamin, the grandmother, remained steady and composed as she described the frantic moments when her infant granddaughter was snatched away, and her ultimately futile attempt to save the child, according to The Star-Ledger.
It was only when a pair of green pajamas was pulled from an evidence bag and handed to Benjamin that tears began to stream down the woman’s face, according to The Star-Ledger.
"That’s what the baby was wearing," Benjamin said, referring to her granddaughter, Zara Malani-Lin Abdur-Raheem.
During her hour on the witness stand in New Brunswick, Benjamin recounted with precise detail the afternoon Abdur-Raheem stormed into her apartment. Benjamin testified that that she told the man to leave, but he didn’t move, according to The Star-Ledger.
As Benjamin she spoke, Abdur-Raheem, clad in a gray suit with blue shirt and tie. sat at the defense table with his hands folded. He stared intently at her but gave no reaction, according to The Star-Ledger.
With the infant still in her grandmother’s arms, Abdur-Raheem grabbed Zara, then began tugging on the woman’s arm, she said. Benjamin said she held onto the child, relenting only after Abdur-Raheem grabbed her neck and shoved her head into the floor, according to The Star-Ledger.
Abdur-Raheem is accused of throwing his daughter, Zara, from the Driscoll Bridge on the Garden State Parkway on Feb. 16, 2010.
Testimony came before Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz in New Brunswick.
Abdur-Raheem is charged with murder, kidnapping and endangering the welfare of a child.
He is also charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault for allegedly attacking the baby’s maternal grandmother and striking her with his vehicle while abducting the infant from the grandmother’s apartment in East Orange.
Abdur-Raheem has been jailed on more than $2 million bail.
Prosecutors say the man abducted the 3-month-old from her grandmother’s East Orange home on Feb. 16, 2010. He assaulted the 60-year-old grandmother and ran her down with a van as he made off with the infant.
Abdur-Raheem, then 21, then drove to the Driscoll Bridge. The baby’s body was found April 24, 2010.
The crime occurred, authorities said, as Zara’s mother was in court seeking a restraining order against Abdur-Raheem.
Grand jurors indicted Abdur-Raheem on six counts in August 2010. (Click on the PDF, right, to view the indictment.)
Abdur-Raheem and the baby’s mother, Venetta Benjamin, were both students at Richard Stockton College, where they met. He was a criminal justice major, and she graduated with an economics degree in 2009.
The trial will resume Wednesday morning with Zara’s mother, Venetta Benjamin, and the medical examiner expected to testify, according to The Star-Ledger.