Maryland Judge Found Fatally Shot Had Previously Ruled in Suspect’s Divorce Case

by Gabriel Martinez
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Maryland Judge Fatal Shooting

Law enforcement agencies are on the hunt for a man who is believed to have shot dead a Maryland judge. The judicial officer had earlier in the day decided against the suspect in a child custody matter as part of a divorce ruling, according to statements from the authorities on Friday.

The judge fell victim to the fatal attack on Thursday evening in his own driveway, while both his spouse and child were present inside the residence. The incident occurred shortly after he had rendered a decision against the suspect in a marital dissolution case, officials reported.

Sheriff Brian Albert of Washington County announced that the law enforcement community is fervently pursuing Pedro Argote, 49, who is suspected of orchestrating the “targeted attack” on Maryland Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson, aged 52.

Wilkinson was discovered with multiple gunshot injuries around 8 p.m. on Thursday near his domicile in Hagerstown. He was subsequently transported to Meritus Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries.

In a press briefing on Friday, Sheriff Albert noted that Argote is to be considered “armed and dangerous.” Although he did not disclose the specific weapon involved in the murder, Albert did confirm that Argote was the legal owner of a handgun.

Recent times have seen a surge in threats and even acts of violence against judges across the United States. Last year, President Joe Biden signed legislation that provides continuous security measures to safeguard the families of Supreme Court Justices, especially after protests erupted outside the residences of some conservative members of the Court following leaked drafts of decisions.

In the divorce case overseen by Wilkinson earlier that Thursday, Argote was conspicuously absent. According to Sheriff Albert, the ruling, which awarded the custody of Argote’s children to his wife, served as the impetus for the subsequent fatal attack.

Court documents indicate that Wilkinson had granted the divorce and assigned sole custody of the couple’s four children—aged 12, 11, 5, and 3—to their mother. Argote was also ordered to refrain from contacting the children and to contribute $1,120 monthly for child support.

The couple had been embroiled in a contentious legal struggle since Argote initiated the divorce proceedings last year. Initial filings from Argote accused his wife of failing in her duties to homeschool their children and lacking proper supervision. His wife counterclaimed, alleging “cruel treatment” and financial incapability to support herself. She also filed for a temporary protective order against Argote, citing harassment and threats, which was later dismissed upon her request.

Judge Wilkinson had earlier rejected Argote’s proposal to cohabit while sorting out their business affairs, citing that Argote exerted “absolute control” over his wife and their finances, which was detrimental to the well-being of their children.

Attempts to reach Argote for comments were unsuccessful. While Argote had no criminal history in Washington County, Albert stated that law enforcement had been summoned to their residence twice in recent years due to verbal domestic disputes.

Legal representatives involved in the divorce case did not respond to inquiries. However, the attorney representing the children expressed high regards for Judge Wilkinson, describing him as an “amazing man, father, husband, and judge.”

Hagerstown, situated approximately 75 miles northwest of Baltimore, is close to the state boundaries of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Sheriff Albert confirmed he was unaware of any prior threats against Judge Wilkinson, who had been serving since 2020.

At his induction, Wilkinson, a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Emory University School of Law, expressed his intent to serve the community. He had been mentored by retired Judge Frederick C. Wright III, who hired Wilkinson’s mother as a law clerk in 1983, setting the stage for Wilkinson’s subsequent legal career.

Unfortunately, Wilkinson joins a growing list of U.S. judges who have been subjected to violent acts. Other incidents include the targeted killing of a retired Wisconsin judge, threats against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and fatal attacks on the family members of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas.

Reporting by Michael Kunzelman and Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland. Additional contributions by Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston and Jennifer Farrar in New York.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Maryland Judge Fatal Shooting

What is the main event the article discusses?

The article discusses the fatal shooting of Maryland Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson, who was killed in his driveway shortly after ruling against a man, Pedro Argote, in a divorce and child custody case.

Who is the main suspect in the case?

The main suspect is Pedro Argote, a 49-year-old man who is currently being sought by law enforcement agencies. He is considered armed and dangerous.

What was the motive for the killing according to authorities?

According to Sheriff Brian Albert of Washington County, the motive for the killing appears to be Judge Wilkinson’s ruling, which awarded the custody of Argote’s children to his wife.

Was the suspect present during the court hearing?

No, Pedro Argote was not present at the court hearing where Judge Wilkinson awarded custody of Argote’s children to his wife.

What measures were in place for the judge’s protection?

The article does not specify any particular security measures that were in place for Judge Wilkinson’s protection at the time of the fatal attack.

Have there been other instances of violence against judges in the U.S.?

Yes, the article notes that there has been a rising trend of threats and violent acts against judges across the United States. Even legislation was signed last year to provide security measures to protect the families of Supreme Court Justices.

What is the current status of the suspect?

As of the latest update, Pedro Argote is still at large and is considered armed and dangerous by the authorities.

What did the court records show about the suspect’s divorce case?

The court records reveal that Argote had initially filed for divorce, accusing his wife of neglecting her homeschooling responsibilities and failing to properly supervise their children. His wife counterclaimed, alleging “cruel treatment” and financial incapability to support herself. A temporary protective order was filed but later dismissed at the wife’s request.

Where did the shooting take place?

The fatal shooting of Judge Wilkinson took place in his own driveway at his residence in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Was anyone else injured in the incident?

No, the article states that Judge Wilkinson was the sole victim in this targeted attack. His wife and son were inside the residence at the time but were not harmed.

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