Crime scene tape surrounds the home of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas in North Brunswick, New Jersey following tragic events on Sunday.
Local news reports say a gunman dressed as a Federal Express delivery driver shot the judge’s 20-year-old son Daniel dead, and critically wounded her husband Mark.
For Judge Joan Lefkow, the news out of New Jersey brings back painful memories.
“It was uncannily similar to what happened to us 15 years ago,” Lefkow said.
In 2005, Lefkow’s mother and husband were murdered in the family’s North Side home by a man angry that the judge dismissed his lawsuit. Lefkow, who was not home at the time, found the bodies.
Following the tragedy, Congress passed legislation to protect court officials.
“One of the things that came out of it was action to have a security system in the home. But obviously this didn’t save this family,” Lefkow said. “I’m angry that we live in such a violent society that is supposedly ok that anybody who is able to get their hands on a gun is allowed to have them.”
Attacks on federal judges and their families are rare, but the U.S. Marshals Service which protects judges, told Congress recently that threats are on the rise.
“There are no words that I could extend that comprehend the grief that judge Salas and her husband bear after losing their beloved son,” Lefkow said.
Her life was changed forever 15 years ago. Now in her 70s, Judge Lefkow says her friends and family have helped her through, especially her children and grand-children.
“It was a grueling, terrible tragic experience. I don’t wanna minimize it but I came to believe that people are more resilient than you think. And what choice do we have but to go on?” Lefkow said.
Lefkow never remarried, and remains a United States District Judge to this day.