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 shooting came days after the judge was assigned a case with links to Jefferey Epstein, although there is not yet any suggestion that the attack is linked to her work.
The judge’s 20-year-old son Daniel Anderl was killed, and her defense attorney husband Mark Anderl, 63, was critically injured.
The attack began at around 5pm when Mark Anderl answered the front door to the family home. He was shot several times.
Daniel, a student at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., then went to investigate the commotion and was fatally shot.
The perpetrator, believed to be a lone gunman, then fled the scene and is not yet in custody.
Francis ‘Mac’ Womack, the mayor of North Brunswick, New Jersey, 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, according to NBC New York.
Neighbors told MyCentralJersey that police were knocking on doors asking for any security video footage of the area.
‘They are still here, not just the police but the FBI, there are agents all over the place,’ one woman told the news outlet. ‘It’s unbelievable what is going on.’
Judge Esther Salas and her husband Mark Anderl are pictured in a photo from 2015
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.
Last week, on July 15, the judge was assigned to a case that had links to late sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein.
The case Salas is presiding over involves as ongoing lawsuit brought by Deutsche Bank investors who claim the company 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.
But her highest-profile case in recent years was the financial fraud case involving husband-and-wife Real Housewives of New Jersey reality TV stars Teresa and Joe Giudice, whom Salas sentenced to prison for crimes including bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion.
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.