NJ judge describes the day an ‘anti-feminist’ lawyer killed her son at their home

Federal judge Esther Salas had just celebrated her son’s birthday when a lawyer showed up at her home dressed as a FedEx delivery driver. Her husband, who was also shot, is still recovering.
10:08 | 10/07/20

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for NJ judge describes the day an ‘anti-feminist’ lawyer killed her son at their home
I know that I'm going to strive every morning to be the best person that I can be. My son gave his life for his father and I. Reporter: Judge Esther Salas's son Daniel was the light of her family. Tragically killed when he was only 20 years old. Tell us about your son. Danny was the love of our life. From the moment he was born. We struggled to have a baby. I had four miscarriages, three before him, one after him. From the moment that little boy came to this world he was the center of our universe. Reporter: Her only child murdered in their home. Her husband, mark Anderl, seriously wounded, targeted by a hateful killer because of who she was. He hated me because I was a woman. He hated me because I was Latina. And that was the source of hate. That was, you know, what I had done, was I had the nerve to become a judge. Reporter: For the first time since the tragedy judge Salas sitting down recounting the devastation she and her family experienced this summer. Her family had just spent the weekend celebrating Daniel's 20th birthday with his friends at their home in New Jersey. July 19th. Walk us through that day. It was -- it was a great weekend. And Danny was downstairs talking to me. As he always did. He said, "Keep talking to me, mom. I love talking to you." And it was at that exact second that the doorbell rang. And before I could tell him let dad handle it, he shot up the stairs. And the next thing I hear is boom. And then I hear, "No." And then I hear a series of bullets. And I just -- what is happening? So I just -- I don't -- I remember running upstairs and it was so loud. I almost thought it was like mini bombs or something. And then I saw Danny lying perpendicular to the door holding his chest. And I saw mark on his hands and knees at the porch. He had crawled to the porch to try to get the license plate or something of the person. I just got on the floor and I just saw my son. And I know at some point mark was screaming call 911. And I tried to do that. And 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. And then the rest is, you know, a blur. Reporter: Daniel, taking a fatal bullet from a man posing as a delivery driver. The gunman shooting judge Salas's husband three times before fleeing the scene. Fortunately, mark survived. I think the hardest injury right now is to his heart. They were so close. He talks about Danny as his best friend. Reporter: Family has always been the bedrock of judge Salas's life. She was raised by a single mother, an immigrant from Cuba who Esther helped translate for as a child. Judge Salas made history by becoming the first Latina federal judge in the state of New Jersey in 2011. You worked hard to be a judge. You're proud of the fact that you're the first Latina federal judge in the state of new I am so proud of who I am. I'm so proud of where I came from. Union city, New Jersey. I am so proud to be my mother's daughter. And she's a strong woman. She's a strong woman. She raised five children on her own. We all went to college. We all graduated. I went on to law school. Reporter: Joining the federal judiciary was her American dream. But it also came with increased exposure and danger. It's such a prominent role to be a judge, a federal judge at that. And you've had threats. Have you ever feared for your safety? You know, you're always conscious of your surroundings. And we were. We were very careful. What I think happened is our defenses were lowered with what was happening around us. I mean, I was ordering packages every day. And I think that that played a role in some of our defenses being down. Reporter: The FBI identified Daniel's killer as disgruntled New York City lawyer Roy den Hollander, a self-described anti-feminist. Judge Salas was overseeing his lawsuit challenging the male-only military draft. Hollander made seething remarks about Salas in a self-published memoir, furious over her handling of the case. The FBI discovered that the shooter had what they called a complete dossier, a complete dossier on you and your family. Do you recall any dealings with this man? Vaguely. Vaguely. It had been months if not a year when he last appeared before me. Had he ever threatened you in any kind of way? Nothing. There was nothing. Reporter: One day after Daniel's murder Hollander was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound 100 miles away from the crime scene. Investigators say they discovered two handguns, several thousand dollars, a FedEx package addressed to judge Salas, and over a dozen names written on a piece of paper including the name of a prominent New York state chief judge. He -- if he didn't do it that day he was going to do it. There is information and I have been told that he had wigs, he had mustaches, he had uniforms, and if he didn't do it that day he was going to do it. Two weeks ago -- Reporter: Weeks after her son was killed judge Salas posted this powerful statement on YouTube pleading for reform and change after Daniel's tragic death. We may not be able to stop something like this from happening again. But we can make it hard for those who target us to track us What can be done? We start with trying to eliminate the personally identified -- identifiable information, what they call the P.I.I., getting that off the internet. There's the idea, increased home security systems. You said it's a matter of life and death. Oh, it is. Reporter: There has been a surge in threats to federal judges and their families, and experts say that women and minorities are targeted even more. Between 2014 and 2019 threats and inappropriate communications against federal judges, prosecutors, and court officials have gone up more than fivefold. To try to protect federal judges, last week New Jersey's representatives in congress introduced the Daniel Anderl judicial security and privacy act. Yes, named after Salas's son. After Daniel's murder I made a personal commitment to judge Salas. I would put forth legislation to better protect the men and women who sit on our federal judiciary and to help prevent this unthinkable tragedy from ever happening again to anyone else. Reporter: For now judge Salas is taking time away from the bench to care for her husband as he recovers. Being on the bench is a lifetime appointment. Yes. Are you planning on returning to the bench? Absolutely. Absolutely. This man took the most important thing in my life. I can't let him take anything I love my job. I'm proud to be a United States district judge. I can't let him take that from me. I'm also going to go back and talk about those things that are critical that we hear like gender equality. The first mission I have, obviously, is judicial security. But you know, when I think about what I want to do next, I want to talk about gender equality. I want to talk about equality for all. I want to talk about how diversity is a beautiful thing. And those are the things that quite frankly I know this individual hated about me. Reporter: A source of strength has been leaning on her catholic faith and one of its core tenets, forgiveness. My husband forgave the shooter when he was in icu fighting for his life. I wasn't quite ready to say I forgave the shooter. Reporter: But weeks later with the help of her priest she too was able to forgive her son's killer. I said god, I forgive him. God, I forgive him. God, I forgive him. And from the moment I did that I felt lighter. You know, hate is heavy. Love is light. And I honestly haven't spent a moment thinking about him at all. What can you say to someone who's watching and going I can't -- that's you, that's wonderful that you're able to find the strength but it's not within me? What I would say to them is that you need to, whatever your faith is, hold on to that. Whatever you need to do. Get the help you need. Oftentimes people are lonely. I'm never alone. I'm never alone. I have god and I have Daniel. He's with me always. Our thanks to robin Roberts.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"10:08","description":"Federal judge Esther Salas had just celebrated her son’s birthday when a lawyer showed up at her home dressed as a FedEx delivery driver. Her husband, who was also shot, is still recovering.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Nightline","id":"73466726","title":"NJ judge describes the day an ‘anti-feminist’ lawyer killed her son at their home","url":"/Nightline/video/nj-judge-describes-day-anti-feminist-lawyer-killed-73466726"}