New Jersey federal judge Esther Salas speaks out in first interview since son’s murder
The New Jersey federal court judge whose son was fatally shot by a self-proclaimed “anti-feminist” attorney over the summer recalled during an interview that aired Tuesday the horrifying moments following the attack – and the steps she’s taking to ensure the young man will never be forgotten.
New Jersey-based U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, 51, sat down with ABC’s Robin Roberts for a segment on “Good Morning America,” where she described in detail how she had been with her 20-year-old son, Daniel Mark Anderl, in the basement of their North Brunswick home on the evening of July 19 when the doorbell rang. Moments later, she heard “a series of bullets.”
“I remember running upstairs. It was so loud. I almost thought it was like mini bombs or something,” she recalled, often appearing to fight back tears. “And then I saw Danny, lying perpendicular to the door holding his chest.”
Salas, her husband, criminal attorney Mark Anderl, 63, and their son were home on the Sunday evening when Roy Den Hollander rang the doorbell carrying a FedEx package and posing as a delivery person, police said. He fled from the area after opening fire, officials said at the time.
“I just got on the floor and I just saw my son. I know at some point Mark was screaming, ‘call 911’ and I tried to do that,” she continued. “I lifted his shirt and I saw the bullet hole. And Mark managed to crawl back and we were both just watching him fade away.”
Daniel was shot one time in the chest, but could not be saved. Anderl, who was also hit, has undergone multiple surgeries.
“I think the hardest injury right now is to his heart,” Salas said, speaking of her husband. “They were so close, he talks about Danny as his best friend.”
Den Hollander had a “complete dossier” on her and the family, including where they lived and even where they went to church, Salas previously said.
The 72-year-old was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound the day after the attack in the town of Rockland in New York’s Sullivan County, law enforcement officials said at the time.
A package addressed to Salas was found with the lawyer’s body, the officials said.
Also among Hollander’s belongings was information about New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, state court spokesperson Lucian Chalfen confirmed to Fox News at the time.
The information included her photograph, her name, and the address for the Court of Appeals in Albany, Chalfen said.
Den Hollander had a gender-equity lawsuit, filed in 2015, that was being heard by Salas. It involved a young woman who wanted to register for the military draft. He also mentioned the judge in writings posted online, deriding her as a ladder-climber who traded on her Hispanic heritage to get ahead.
Salas said she “vaguely” recalls working with the man, and noted, “It had been months, if not a year when he last appeared before me.”
“I know that he hated me because I was a woman. He hated me because I was Latina, and that was the source of hate – that was what I had done. I had the nerve to become a judge,” she said on GMA.
She added that she and Anderl were able to attend a de-briefing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation following the attack.
“We play it back – what if I would have stopped him. The what-ifs, but after the FBI debriefing, there’s peace,” she said. “If he didn’t do it that day, he was going to do it.”
Salas has now made it her mission to made judge’s “personally identifiable information,” or PII, scrubbed from the web and overall harder to obtain by the public, as well as increasing security for such government officials, she said.
“I said I have to protect and at least help to protect my brothers and sisters on the bench. And how do we do that? We do that by never letting anyone forget Daniel,” she said. “Never letting anyone forget what he did for us. Never letting anyone forget the high price we all pay if, indeed, the right things aren’t done.”
She also said she “absolutely” plans to return to her role as a federal court judge.
“This man took the most important thing in my life. I can’t let him take anything else,” she said, later adding, “My son gave his life for his father and I. I have to look at that and say, ‘what a gift.’ I can’t squander it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.