Judge Esther Salas Says It's 'Bittersweet' Returning to Work 7 Months After Her Son Was Killed
U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas has returned to work seven months after her son was shot dead by a disgruntled defense lawyer.
In an interview with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts on Tuesday, Salas, 52, opened up about returning to her job for the first time since the killing of her 20-year-old son, Daniel Anderl, by self-described "anti-feminist" lawyer Roy Den Hollander in July. Hollander also injured Salas' husband, defense attorney Mark Anderl.
"It is bittersweet in a certain way because I am returning to a job that I love so much, but also because of this job I lost my only son," Salas told Roberts, 60.
She continued: "It is hard to reconcile those emotions, but I can tell you this. I know Daniel would want me to come back and I know that Daniel would want me to represent all women and Latinas everywhere and come back and show that I am not deterred and I will not be frightened or afraid to do what I love to do, which is be a United States District Court Judge."
Salas, who was uninjured in the shooting despite being the presumed target, went on to tell Roberts how she's coped with the unimaginable grief over the past seven months.
"Mostly God and my family and my loved ones that have surrounded me and enveloped me all this time since this horrific incident," she said. "I can only say that I am so blessed, and Mark and I are so blessed that we can see the good and we can see the wonderful things that have happened since."
Salas also noted that she and her husband "will never forget" their son, adding, "One of the things I want to make sure people understand is I am moving forward but not moving on."
"Daniel remains with me always," she told Roberts. "In my heart, in my soul and he is with me. I say to anyone who is suffering a loss: stay strong, stay committed to your faith and rely on those who love you to help you. Ask for that help."
On July 19, Hollander posed as a FedEx driver and rang the doorbell at Salas' North Brunswick Township, New Jersey home with a gun. Daniel opened the door and was immediately shot and killed. Mark was also shot three times and was seriously injured, but made a full recovery.
Salas was in the basement and remained unharmed. The following day, Hollander was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"Daniel, being Daniel, protected his father," Salas recalled in heart-wrenching video released to the media in August. "And he took the shooter's first bullet directly to the chest. The monster then turns his attention to my husband. And began to shoot at my husband."
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Following the shooting, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy passed "Daniel's Law," banning the "distribution of personal information, including home addresses and phone numbers, for judges, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel."
"This tragedy, every mother's worst nightmare, happened for a reason wholly unrelated to either my husband or my son, but because of my job: I am a United States District Court judge," Salas wrote in a New York Times op-ed published in December. "A lawyer who had appeared before me was angered by the pace of a lawsuit he had filed in my court. He came to my home seeking revenge."
Salas went on to say in the op-ed that since her son's death, she has "vowed to do everything I can to make similar tragedies less likely."
Salas is the first Latina to serve on the federal bench in New Jersey and was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2011. She has presided over a number of high-profile trials since her appointment, including Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa and Joe Giudice's 2014 financial fraud case.