Roy Den Hollander hated Judge Esther Salas enough to shoot her son and her husband — but she barely knew who he was.
Judge Esther Salas has forgiven her child’s killer.
In her first televised interview since her son was gunned down in their own home by a disgruntled lawyer in a targeted attack, the federal judge said she harbors no ill will.
“I bowed my head and I forgave him three times,” she told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America on Tuesday. “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.”
Daniel Anderl was shot dead on his parents’ doorstep on July 19, having just celebrated his 20th birthday at their home in New Jersey, after opening the door to a man in a FedEx uniform. His father, Mark Anderl, was also shot three times, but survived.
The following day, anti-feminist lawyer Roy Den Hollander was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Despite this fatal vendetta, Judge Salas said she barely remembers encountering him before.
“Vaguely…. vaguely,” she told Roberts. “It had been months, a year when he last appeared before me.”
She said there were no threats from the lawyer at all: “There was nothing.”
Having sat with her husband for a debriefing with the FBI, she said she learned the motive behind the ambush.
“I know that he hated me because I was a woman. He hated me because I was a Latina. And that was the source of hate. That was what I had done… I had the nerve to become a judge.”
Salas even told Roberts she regretted calling Hollander “a monster” in the aftermath of the shooting.
On the fateful day, she said her defenses had been lowered because of the weekend’s celebrations, and was ordering packages every day.
Reliving July 19th, she said she and her son were in the basement chatting. “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,” she said, her voice cracking. “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’.”
She said she heard more bullets being fired, like “mini bombs”. Running up the stairs, she saw her son lying perpendicular to the door, and her husband crawling towards the door in an attempt to read the perpetrator’s license plate.
“I just got on the floor and I just saw my son. I know at some point, Mark was screaming, ‘Call 911.’ I tried to do that. And I lifted his shirt, and I saw the bullet hole,” she said through tears.
“Mark managed to crawl back and we were both just watching him fade away.”
She said she and her husband have played back the day over and over in their minds, full of “what ifs”, asking if there was a way they could have prevented it.
But after discussing it with investigators, they realize there is nothing they could have done — and it has brought some respite.
“After that FBI debriefing, there’s peace,” she said. “If he didn’t do it that day, he was going to do it.”
She described Daniel — whom she had amid four miscarriages — as the love of their lives.
Nevertheless the resolute judge vowed to get straight back on the bench.
“This man took the most important thing in my life. I can’t let him take anything else,” she said. “I love my job. I’m proud to be a United States district judge. I can’t let him take that from me.”
She is now pushing for better protection for judges, and ensuring their personal information is not available online — which will be known as Daniel’s Law.
“I have to protect my brothers and sisters on the bench,” she said.
“I’m gonna strive every morning to be the best person that I could be… My son gave his life for his father and I. I have to look at that and say, ‘What a gift.’ I can’t squander it.”