Maryland Judge Killed by Father After Losing Custody of Children in Divorce Case He Presided Over

Andrew Wilkinson and Pedro Argote
Andrew Wilkinson (left) and Pedro Argote. Facebook

A judge was shot and killed outside his home in Hagerstown, Maryland, on Thursday night, and a manhunt is underway for a suspect whose divorce case was overseen by the victim.

Maryland Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson was identified as the victim. He was 52 years old. The Washington County Sheriff's Office is now searching for 49-year-old Pedro Argote, who is considered armed and dangerous.

Wilkinson 'Targeted' by Argote After Losing Custody of Children

Officials believe Argote targeted Wilkinson because the judge granted custody of his four children to Argote's wife during a divorce proceeding earlier Thursday, Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said at a news conference Friday morning. He also denied Argote visitation rights based on a history of domestic violence. Argote did not attend the hearing.

As reported by NBC Washington, Wilkinson was shot multiple times in his driveway at about 8 p.m. Thursday. His wife and son were inside their home at the time of the shooting. The judge was rushed to Meritus Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.

Court records show Wilkinson presided over a divorce proceeding on Thursday morning between Argote and his wife. Argote did not attend the hearing, Albert said. Argote is listed as the plaintiff who brought the divorce case in June 2022.

Albert said deputies had responded to the couple's home twice in the past "few years" for verbal domestic assaults. Court records show Argote was named in a domestic violence petition in June 2022. It was dismissed at the request of the person who asked for it.

Manhunt Underway for Wilkinson

Argote is 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He may be driving a silver 2009 Mercedes GL450 with Maryland plates 4EH0408, the sheriff's office said.

Police said Argote has ties to Brooklyn and Long Island in New York; Tampa and Clearwater in Florida; Columbus, Indiana, and unknown cities in North Carolina. Anyone with potentially relevant information is asked to contact police. Argote legally owns a handgun, Albert said.

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 became a circuit court law clerk in Washington County.