Watch CBS News

Investigators believe federal judge was "intended target" of attack that killed her son and wounded her husband, source says

Investigators believe that federal judge Esther Salas was the "intended target" of the Sunday attack at her New Jersey home that killed her son and critically wounded her husband, a law enforcement source told CBS News. Salas was in the basement at the time of the attack and was not hurt, but her husband remains in critical condition.

Multiple law enforcement sources told CBS News the suspect, 72-year-old attorney Roy Den Hollander, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was found in a car in upstate New York. The FBI confirmed Den Hollander's death. Investigators believe the gun recovered at the site of Den Hollander's death is the same gun that was used in the attack, according to a law enforcement source. 

The suspect came to the house wearing a FedEx uniform and a COVID-style mask, sources confirmed. When investigators later found him, they discovered a package addressed to Salas in his car.

Den Hollander had a history of pursuing what he called "antifeminist" lawsuits. He had previously been an attorney in a case before Salas in which a female plaintiff argued that it was unconstitutional to prevent women from registering for the draft. 

Den Hollander had been involved in other gender-related lawsuits in the past, including one in which he sued Columbia University claiming its women's studies program represented "bigotry against men." The case was dismissed. He also tried and failed to have the Violence Against Women Act overturned.

Den Hollander had been apparently diagnosed with terminal cancer before his death, according to a law enforcement source. He is also considered a prime suspect in a San Bernardino County, California, murder earlier this month, a source said. 

Salas' husband, Mark Anderl, is a criminal defense attorney and former Essex County prosecutor. His law partner decried the attack in a statement. "My dear friend and law partner Mark Anderl is in critical condition struggling and undergoing a second surgery after being shot by an assailant in an attempted murder," David Oakley wrote. "I ask people of all faiths to join me in fervent prayers for this good and honorable man." 

Oakley said Salas' son, Daniel, was a college student at the Catholic University of America who "was planning to follow his mother and father into a career in law." 

"Inspired by his Christian faith, he would have carried on the family tradition of service to the system of justice and the community with distinction," he said. 


Neighbors were left in shock, CBS New York reports. They said they couldn't imagine why anyone would want to harm the family.

"I mean, just very good-natured, wonderful people. We love them very, very much. That's all I can say. We love them very, very much. We will do anything for them and I think they would do anything for anyone," friend Marion Costanza told the station.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy tweeted that "Judge Salas and her family are in our thoughts at this time as they cope with this senseless act."

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said in a statement that, "My prayers are with Judge Salas and her family, and that those responsible for this horrendous act are swiftly apprehended and brought to justice."

Salas is best known for presiding over the case of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice and her husband, Joe Giudice. They pleaded guilty to fraud charges in 2014. Teresa was sentenced to 15 months in prison while Joe was hit with a 41-month sentence.

The Associated Press reports Salas is presiding over a lawsuit in which Deutsche Bank investors assert the bank made false and misleading statements about its anti-money laundering policies and didn't keep tabs on "high-risk" customers including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Pat Milton, Len Tepper and Andy Triay contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.