A gunman posing as a FedEx delivery person shot and killed the 20-year-old son of a federal judge and wounded her husband at their New Jersey home before fleeing, authorities said.
The shooting happened Sunday evening at the North Brunswick home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, and killed her son, Daniel, Chief District Judge Freda Wolfson told The Associated Press. Her husband, defense lawyer Mark Anderl, was injured in the attack, Wolfson said.
Investigators are examining a possible connection between the shooting and the body of a man found dead Monday from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Sullivan County, New York, a law enforcement official said.
The man, an attorney from New York City, is being investigated in connection with the shooting, the law enforcement official and a judiciary official told The Associated Press. The man had appeared before the judge in the past, the officials said.
The officials could not discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Daniel Anderl, Salas’ son, was set to be heading back shortly to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he was named to the Dean’s List this spring.
“I was shocked last night to hear news of Daniel Anderl’s tragic death Sunday evening in New Jersey. Daniel was a rising junior, enrolled for classes beginning in the next few weeks,” university President John Garvey wrote on Twitter. “He turned 20 last week.”
Esther Salas, seated in Newark, was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed in 2011. Prior to that, she served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in New Jersey, after working as an assistant public defender for several years.
Salas, born in California to a Cuban immigrant mother and Mexican father, spent most of her childhood in Union City, New Jersey. After helping her family escape a devastating house fire, she acted as her mother’s translator and advocate, foreshadowing her career in law as she argued her family’s case to welfare officials, according to a 2018 magazine profile.
In the profile, Salas spoke of her son possibly following his parents into the legal profession.
“He’s been arguing with us since he could talk — practicing his advocacy skills,” Salas told New Jersey Monthly. “I don’t want to dissuade him, but I was pulling for a doctor.”
Just last week, Salas was appointed to hear an 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 Jeffrey Epstein.
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 to 45 years in prison.
Attorney General William Barr said in a statement Monday that the FBI and the U.S. Marshals will continue investigating the shooting, adding: “This kind of lawless, evil action carried out against a member of the federal judiciary will not be tolerated.”
Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who backed Salas’s nomination to the federal bench, said he hoped “those responsible for this horrendous act are swiftly apprehended and brought to justice” in a statement Sunday night.
In an emailed statement, Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the shooting “a senseless act” and said “this tragedy is our latest reminder that gun violence remains a crisis in our country and that our work to make every community safer isn’t done.”
Associated Press reporters Michael R. Sisak and David Porter contributed to this report. Balsamo reported from Washington, D.C.