Suspect on the run after Maryland judge killed in his own driveway
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — A judge who was shot to death at home was “targeted” by a suspect in a divorce case, authorities in Maryland said Friday.
Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said authorities are “actively working” to apprehend 49-year-old Pedro Argote in the shooting of Maryland Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson.
Wilkinson, 52, was found with gunshot wounds around 8 p.m. Thursday in the driveway of his home in Hagerstown, authorities said. Wilkinson was taken to Meritus Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.
Albert said at a news conference Friday that the judge’s wife and son were also home at the time of the shooting.
Authorities are “actively looking” for Argote, who is considered “armed and dangerous.” Albert said Argote legally owned a handgun.
Wilkinson had presided over a divorce proceeding involving Argote earlier Thursday, but that Argote was not present for the hearing.
Albert said that the judge gave custody of Argote’s children to his wife at the hearing and that was the motive for the killing.
State troopers were deployed overnight as a precaution to protect judges who live in Washington County, state police spokesperson Elena Russo said.
In a statement, the Maryland Judiciary said it is mourning Wilkinson’s death and that it is working with law enforcement to help resolve the matter and ensure the safety of judges, staff and visitors.
Wilkinson was sworn in as a circuit court judge in 2020. The 1994 University of North Carolina graduate received his law degree from Emory University School of Law in 1997 and then became a circuit court law clerk in Washington County.
At his swearing-in, Wilkinson said he wanted to become a judge to serve the community, The Herald-Mail reported.
“It’s an honor and it’s humbling, and I’m happy to serve,” he said.
Wilkinson thanked retired Judge Frederick C. Wright III for guiding his career. Wilkinson’s military family had moved around, but when Wright hired his mother as a law clerk in 1983, Hagerstown became his home.
In Maryland, circuit courts in each county handle serious criminal and civil cases, including many that are appealed from the lower-level district courts, according to the state courts website.
Court records list Pedro Argote as the plaintiff who brought the divorce case in June 2022. Attorneys on both sides of the case didn’t immediately respond to emails and calls seeking comment.
However, the attorney representing the children in the divorce case had words of praise for the late jurist.
“Judge Wilkinson was an amazing man, father, husband and judge and I am blessed to have known and worked with him,” attorney Ashley Wilburn wrote in an email. “He is a hero.”
The city of nearly 44,000 lies about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Baltimore in the panhandle of Maryland, near the state lines of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Michael Kunzelman and Sarah Brumfield reported from Silver Spring, Maryland.