Police on the hunt for man after Maryland judge killed in his driveway

Police on the hunt for man after Maryland judge killed in his driveway

Sarah Al-Arshani

Julie E. Greene

Cybele Mayes-Osterman
 USA TODAY NETWORKplayShow CaptionHide Caption#videoDetailsToggle{color:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));cursor:pointer;display:inline-block;font-family:var(–sans-serif,sans-serif);font-size:var(–type-7);font-weight:var( –font-weight-bold,900);line-height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);margin-bottom:-8px}#vdt_hide{margin-bottom:10px}.vdt-flex[hidden]{display:none}.vdt-svg{fill:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);width:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px)}Police: Maryland judge fatally shot in driveway of homePolice: Maryland judge fatally shot in driveway of home

Authorities are searching for a man wanted in connection with the shooting death of a Maryland judge Thursday night.

Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said during a news conference Friday law enforcement was searching for 49-year-old Pedro Argote, who failed to show up for a Thursday morning hearing before Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson that resulted in the judge giving custody of Argote’s four children to his ex-wife.

Wilkinson, 52, presided over the divorce case, Albert said, which was filed by Argote against his ex-wife in June 2022.

“This was a targeted attack on Judge Wilkinson,” Albert said.

Argote may drive a silver Mercedes GL450, deputies said. The agency is asking anyone with information to contact law enforcement.

The sheriff’s office said deputies responded to a shooting at about 8 p.m. near Hagerstown, about 75 miles west of Baltimore. Deputies found Wilkinson, 52, in his driveway with a gunshot wound. Wilkinson was taken a local hospital where he died.

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Maryland State Police troopers were dispatched to protect other judges on Thursday night as a precaution, Albert said. Police do not believe there is an ongoing threat to other judges.

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Estranged wife granted protection order

A court granted Eugenia Argote a temporary protection order against her ex-husband in June 2022, shortly after he filed for divorce. In her request, she wrote that he was emotionally abusive and she was afraid to be near him.

“I have been trying to get out of this relationship for the longest time, but for the fear that he will try to get custody of the kids,” Eugenia Argote wrote in the petition obtained by USA TODAY.

She said her then husband had carried his weapon “at all times,” and he would not let her use the couple’s car or have access to their shared finances. “I can’t get out of the house without his knowledge,” she wrote.

“I don’t know what to do,” she wrote. “Please I need help.”

Pedro Argote asked that Thursday’s hearing be postponed, noting in the request he and his children would suffer “severe prejudice” if he was not allowed more time to prepare “key evidence and witnesses,” according to court documents.

Erika Johnson, an attorney for the ex-wife, told USA TODAY in an email that they have no information about the shooting or the whereabouts of Pedro Argote.

“Our hearts ache for Judge Wilkinson’s family, and we are praying for them and for those searching for the suspect.  Judge Wilkinson was a kind, caring, and compassionate individual.  He will be truly missed.”

Attorneys listed on court documents for Pedro Argote did not return requests by phone and email from USA TODAY for comment.

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Wilkinson was a private attorney before judge

Wilkinson served as an associate judge for the 4th Judicial Circuit Court since January 2020.

He received his law degree in 1997 from Emory University School of Law and had experience in all levels of Maryland courts from district court to the Court of Appeals. His legal experience included real estate, zoning and family law, as well as civil litigation. 

A 1994 graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilkinson was appointed to serve as circuit court judge by then-Gov. Larry Hogan.

Asked after his investiture ceremony about becoming a judge in his hometown, Wilkinson said, “It’s an honor and it’s humbling, and I’m happy to serve.” 

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