The New Jersey federal judge whose son was murdered by a disgruntled, misogynistic lawyer she once ruled in a case over spoke out on Monday morning to call for greater protections for judges.
Esther Salas’ son Daniel, 20, was shot and killed at the family’s home in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on July 19 by Roy Den Hollander, a vengeful 72-year-old lawyer who held a grudge against Salas.
Hollander killed Daniel and also wounded Salas’ husband, Mark, before fleeing the state and shooting himself the next day. He is also believed to have killed lawyer Marc Angelucci in Los Angeles eight days earlier in a reckless murdering spree that was prompted by his terminal cancer diagnoses.
Salas, in a video released on Monday morning, said the killings showed how dangerous it can become for judges and their families when they have to make ‘tough calls’ in court.
She never ruled against Hollander but he complained in online ramblings that she dragged her heels in making a decision in the case he was fighting for which involved expanding the military draft to enlist women as well as men.
‘Two weeks ago, my life as I knew it changed in an instant and my family will never be the same. A mad man, who I believe was targeting me because of my position as a federal judge, came to my house,’ she said.
She went on to reveal that the family had been celebrating Daniel’s 20th birthday over the weekend.
On Sunday July 19, she and her husband went to church and allowed Daniel to rest.
When they returned, she and him started talking in the basement.
Salas said her son told her: ‘Let’s keep talking. I love talking to you mom.’
‘It was at that exact moment that the doorbell rang. Daniel looked at me and said, “who is that?”
‘Before I could say a word, he sprinted upstairs. Within seconds I heard the sound of bullets and someone screaming “no,”‘ she said, fighting tears.
Hollander was holding a FedEx package in his hand. Salas revealed that her son and her husband went to the door at the same time and that Daniel stepped in front of his father to take the first bullet.
‘Daniel being Daniel protected his father. And he took the shooter’s first bullet directly to the chest.
‘The monster then turned his attention to my husband and began to shoot at my husband. One shot after another,’ she said.
Salas’ husband Mark, 63, survived but is still in the hospital after undergoing multiple surgeries.
She said the pair are now living ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’ and that she does not want anyone else to experience it.
‘My family has experienced a pain that no one should ever have to endure. I am here asking everyone to help me ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain,’ she said.
Salas is now asking for greater privacy for federal judges to keep their information secure.
‘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 down.
‘As federal judges, we understand that our decisions will be scrutinized. Some may disagree strongly with our rulings.
‘We know that our job requires us to make tough calls. Sometimes those calls can leave people angry and upset. That comes with the territory.
‘We accept that. But what we cannot accept is when we are forced to live in fear for our lives because personal information like our home addresses can easily be obtained by anyone seeking to do us or our families harm.
‘Unfortunately for my family, the threat was real. The free flow of information from the internet allowed this sick and depraved human being to find all our personal information and target us.
‘Currently, federal judges’ addresses and other information is readily available on the internet. In addition, there are companies that will sell your personal details that can be leveraged for nefarious purposes.
‘In my case, the monster knew where I lived and what church we attended and had a complete dossier on me and my family.
‘At the moment there is nothing we can do to stop it and that is unacceptable. My son’s death cannot be in vain,’ she pleaded.
Hollander – who was diagnosed with melanoma recently – had a list of at least 12 other targets in his car.
Judge Janet DiFiore, New York State’s chief judge, was on the list, as were multiple others including two oncologists and two other judges, according to The New York Times.
Their names have not been released.
The two oncologists treated Hollander, whose cancer was terminal.
At the time of his death, he had claimed online to have been mistreated by two oncologists, Dr. Philip Friedlander and Dr. Sonam Sharma.