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Judge Esther Salas wanted son Daniel to become a doctor but didn't dissuade him from pursuing a career in law

20-year-old Daniel Anderl was shot dead at their New Jersey home on Sunday by a gunman dressed as a FedEx driver
Esther Salas, left, and her son Daniel Anderl (Rutgers University, St. Joseph High School)
Esther Salas, left, and her son Daniel Anderl (Rutgers University, St. Joseph High School)

A federal judge whose son was shot dead and husband critically injured on Sunday, July 19, had boasted about the 20-year-old in an interview two years back and said she wanted him to become a doctor. Judge Esther Salas’ son Daniel Anderl and husband Mark Anderl were shot at their home in North Brunswick, New Jersey. The attack left Daniel dead and her defense attorney husband Mark seriously injured.

In an interview for New Jersey Monthly magazine in 2018, Salas -- an Obama-appointed District Court Judge in North Brunswick -- gushed about her then 17-year-old son, who she said was leaning toward a law career. “I don’t want to dissuade him, but I was pulling for a doctor. He’s been arguing with us since he could talk — practicing his advocacy skills,” Salas said.

At the time, the judge also said that she taught Daniel a Spanish mantra, which she got to know from her mother who emigrated from Cuba: “'Tu no eres mejor que nadie, Pero nadie es mejor que tu.' In English, it means: 'You are not better than anyone, but no one is better than you.' It’s a profound way to live your life — to speak to the janitor with the same respect that you would show to [US Supreme Court Chief] Justice [John] Roberts. It also means, in the end, you have to be respected too,” Salas told the magazine.

During the interview with the outlet, Salas also talked about her husband and explained how she was “literally getting fingerprinted” when Mark approached her. The couple met when the 63-year-old criminal defense attorney was an assistant prosecutor in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and Salas was a second-year law school intern. “We’ve been inseparable since 1992,” the 51-year-old said.

The Sunday shooting reportedly happened at around 5 pm in the evening when Mark had opened the front door to their home. He was shot many times by a gunman who was dressed as a FedEx driver after which Daniel, a student at Catholic University in DC, went to investigate and was fatally shot. Salas was present at home at the time of the shooting, but was in the basement and did not get injured. The person suspected of the shooting was reportedly found dead of what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to two law enforcement sources, CNN reported.

North Brunswick Mayor Francis 'Mac' Womack said that "He was shot through the heart," referring to Salas' son.

While speaking of Mark, Womack said: “He’s a very, very exuberant, vibrant, 100 percent pleasant person. 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."

Meanwhile, another report has stated that Daniel was getting ready to enter his junior year of college at the D.C. school after making it to the list of the university’s School of Arts and Science's Dean's List. The University's President, John H. Garvey, released a statement after the tragedy struck the judge’s family. “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. He turned 20 last week,” the statement read.

While the St. Joseph High School of Metuchen community also expressed their sorrow over the tragic loss of their alumnus Daniel. “He was a well-rounded student and did well in school. He epitomized what it is to be a St. Joseph man. We are in shock and we are so sad for the family,” St. Joseph High School Principal Anne Rivera said.