Federal judge speaks out for first time after family attacked in North Brunswick home; pleads for privacy for judges

PHOTO COURTESY OF WOMEN AWARE

NORTH BRUNSWICK – U.S. District Judge Esther Salas released her first public statement since her son was killed and husband shot at their North Brunswick home on July 19, thanking the public for its love and support, and calling for the protection of the personal information of federal judges.

In a video message, Salas said on that fateful day, the family was cleaning up after celebrating their son Daniel’s 20th birthday. She said Daniel always wanted to spend his birthday with his parents, and they decided to safely host some of his friends from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., for a party.

Salas said she and her husband Mark had gone to church in the morning, but when they came home, and after Daniel’s last friend departed, she and Daniel were in the basement cleaning up.

“The weekend was a glorious one. It was filled with love and laughter and smiles,” Salas said.

She said Daniel just wanted to talk to her, saying how much he loved their conversations.

“Mom, let’s keep talking, I love talking to you, Mom,” Salas recalled Daniel saying.

Then, at that exact moment, she said, the doorbell rang.

“Two weeks ago my life as I knew it changed in an instant and my family will never be the same,” she said.

Salas said Daniel sprinted upstairs and within seconds she was able to hear the sound of bullets and someone screaming, “No!”

“This monster, who had a FedEx package in his hand, opened fire,” she said.

“Daniel being Daniel protected his father and he took the shooter’s first bullet directly to the chest,” Salas said. “The monster then turned his attention to my husband and began to shoot at my husband, one shot after another. Mark was shot three times: one bullet entered his right chest, the other, his left abdomen, the last one in the right forearm.”

The FBI identified Roy Den Hollander as the primary suspect in the attack. Hollander was found dead the next day, according to information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on July 20, reportedly by suicide.

Salas called Hollander a “madman” who she believes targeted her family because of her position as a federal judge. Salas sits on the bench in the District of New Jersey, Newark.

Salas said her husband, who is a criminal defense attorney, is still in the hospital recovering from multiple surgeries.

She said now, they are living every parent’s worse nightmare, preparing to bury their only child.

“My family has experienced a pain that no one should ever have to endure, and I am here asking everyone to help me ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain.”

Salas said, as a judge, she took an oath and works tirelessly to uphold the pledge of treating everyone fairly regardless of race, gender or economic status. She said she understands judges’ decisions will be scrutinized. And she said the job requires them to make tough calls that can lead to people being angry and upset.

But she said it should be hard for those who target judges to track them.

“What we cannot accept is when we are forced to live in fear of our lives,” she said.

She said personal information, like her home address and the church she attends, should not be readily available on the internet. And she mentioned Hollander having a “dossier” on the family.

Hollander was an attorney who specialized in anti-feminist litigation, investigations and advice on general corporate matters, according to his website.

“My son’s death cannot be in vain, which is why I am begging those in power to do something, to help my brothers and sisters on the bench. Now, more than ever, we need to identify a solution to keep the lives of federal judges private,” she said.

Salas said she does not have all the answers, but wants to commence a national dialogue and work collaboratively to find a solution to safeguard the privacy of federal judges.

“We can’t sit back and wait for another tragedy to strike,” she said.

Salas thanked those who have tried to relieve her family’s “unfathomable pain,” and specifically mentioned the first responders, doctors, nurses, staff and leadership at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, all law enforcement officers, anyone who reached out, and everyone who said a prayer.

“The outpouring of love has been overwhelming, and I can tell you it has lifted us during our darkest hours,” she said.

Dan Anderl was a 2018 graduate of St. Joseph High School, Metuchen. His funeral arrangements were not known as of press time.

Mark Anderl was still hospitalized, as of press time.

The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information relevant to the investigation may call FBI-Newark at 973-792-3000, press option 2.