The son of a federal judge has been shot dead and her husband critically wounded after they were attacked at their home by a gunman dressed as a FedEx driver.
The attack happened at the home of Esther Salas, 51, an Obama-appointed District Court judge, in North Brunswick, New Jersey, on Sunday evening.
The judge’s 20-year-old son Daniel Anderl was killed, and her defense attorney husband Mark Anderl, 63, was critically injured.
Daniel, who was the couple’s only child, is believed to have opened the door to the gunman at around 5pm. He was shot ‘in the heart’ immediately, according to friends of the family.
His father Mark was then shot several times when he went to the front door to see what had happened. The gunman fled.
Judge Esther Salas was in the basement of her home when the gunman arrived. Her 20-year-old son Daniel (far right) answered the door to the assailant, who was dressed as a FedEx driver, and was shot in the heart. His father Mark (center) went to the door to see what had happened and was shot multiple times. Mark is in the hospital in critical condition.
The judge and her family were the targets of an assassination attempt on Sunday evening at their home in North Brunswick Township, New Jersey. The house is pictured on Monday morning.
Judge Salas had recently been assigned to a civil financial fraud case tied to Jeffrey Epstein.
It was brought by Deutsche Bank investors who claim the bank made false and misleading statements about its anti-money laundering policies and failed to monitor ‘high-risk’ customers including convicted sex offender billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
Earlier this month the bank agreed to pay a $150million fine for continuing to work with Epstein after he was convicted of soliciting underage prostitutes in 2008.
Judge Salas also sent TV stars Teresa and Joe Giudice from the Real Housewives of New Jersey to jail for tax evasion and fraud.
It’s unclear whether her husband is actively involved in any cases.
Friends say she often made remarks about her job making her a target for attacks but that recently, she was not concerned.
‘As a judge, she had threats from time to time, but everyone is saying that recently there had not been any,’ Francis ‘Mac’ Womack, the mayor of North Brunswick, New Jersey, told The Washington Post.
‘She had some high-profile cases, and she was always a little concerned,’ Marion Costanza, who lives three doors down from the family, said.
Anderl was a prosecutor for 10 years before switching to private practice.
During his time in the prosecutor’s office, he tried more than 100 cases including 33 murder trials. , said that Daniel was ‘shot through the heart’.Mark is reportedly in critical but stable condition at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick.
Judge Salas is believed to have been in the basement of the home during the shooting and was unharmed in the attack.
She and Daniel were close, neighbors said, and she was devastated when he moved away from home to go to college.
‘I think she cried for a week and that’s just in D.C. He was her only child,’ Costanza added.
She said Daniel was a good-natured boy who once brought her supplies during a snow storm.
‘There’s no one like them. They’re extremely good-natured. They would do anything for anyone,’ she said.
Another said: You don’t expect anything like this around here. We all know our neighbors, we all greet each other and it’s a quiet area.’
Crime scene tape could be seen stretching around the perimeter of the family home located in the Hiddlen Lake section of North Brunswick. The street had been closed off to traffic.
Salas staggered their sentences so that one of them could be available to take care of their four children.
In 2017, she barred federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against an alleged gang leader charged in several Newark slayings, ruling the man’s intellectual disability made him ineligible for capital punishment.
Salas later sentenced the man, the leader of the Newark Bloods street gang to 45 years in prison.
She has also dealt with cases involving members of the Grape Street Crips according to NJ.com. The case was connection with a long-running drug-trafficking network that was taken down by the FBI in 2015.
Judge Salas had received death threats in the past but as of Sunday night, authorities have not suggested the shootings are linked to any of her previous cases.
‘As a judge, she had threats from time to time, but everyone is saying that recently there had not been any,’ said Mayor Womack to ABC News, who is friends with the judge and her husband.
‘No words can express the sadness and loss we share tonight as a community after senseless shootings of the husband and son of USDC Judge Esther Salas,’ she said.
The mayor said investigators are now ‘trying to get a hard make on the vehicle’ to try and track the suspect.
‘We commit to do all we can to support the family in this time, as well as all law enforcement agencies involved,’ Womack said.
The mayor noted how close the family appeared to be:
‘He’s a very very exuberant, vibrant, one hundred percent pleasant person,’ Womack said to CNN. ‘He loves to talk about his wife, and he loves to brag about his son, and how his son would excel in baseball, and how he was doing down in college in Washington … I’m just very sorry to see him going through this.’
The U.S. Marshals have also been called to provide the judge with a security detail, according to a law enforcement official.
Salas had sat a judge on the U.S. District Court for New Jersey in Newark, for nine years and was the first Hispanic woman to serve on the federal bench in the state.
Before that she spent five years as a magistrate judge, and nine years prior to that as a federal public defender before President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as a District Court Judge in 2010.
The daughter of a Cuban mother and a Mexican father, Salas spent part of her childhood on welfare after a fire destroyed her Union City apartment, according to The Globe.
Her husband, Mark Anderl also works in legal circles and served as an assistant prosecutor in Essex County, New Jersey for ten years before becoming a criminal defense attorney.
Salas met her husband when he was working as a prosecutor and she was working as a law school intern. He spotted her ‘getting fingerprinted’ and came over to talk to her, she told New Jersey Monthly in February 2018. ‘We’ve been inseparable since 1992,’ she said.
So far, police have not announced any arrests or named any suspects, however the FBI tweeted it was looking for ‘one subject’ in the shooting.
Anyone who thinks they may have relevant information should call the FBI in Newark at 973-792-3001.