Suspect in fatal shooting of judge found dead 1 mile from abandoned vehicle

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A divorce litigant named as the suspect in the fatal shooting of a Maryland judge was found dead in a wooded area Thursday. Image from Shutterstock.

Updated: A divorce litigant named as the suspect in the fatal shooting of a Maryland judge was found dead in a wooded area Thursday.

Police had been searching for Pedro Argote, 49, following the Oct. 19 shooting of Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson in the driveway of his home in Hagerstown, Maryland, report NBC News, the Washington Post, CNN and Law360. Wilkinson died after being taken to the hospital.

Before he was shot and killed, 52-year-old Wilkinson had granted full legal custody of Argote’s four children to their mother, Argote’s estranged wife. In a March opinion, Wilkinson said testimony left him with “the uneasy sense” that Argote “engages in absolute control” over the children’s mother and their finances, according to the Washington Post.

Pedro Argote Pedro Argote, 49, had ties to locations in New York, Florida, Indiana and North Carolina. Photo from the Washington County sheriff’s office in Maryland.

Argote’s SUV was found in a wooded area Oct. 21 in Williamsport, Maryland, which is near the West Virginia border, the Washington County sheriff’s office said Oct. 22.

Argote’s body was found 1 mile west of the vehicle, the sheriff’s office said in an Oct. 26 Facebook post noted by Reuters.

Wilkinson was a 1997 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He was an assistant county attorney in Washington County, Maryland, and a lawyer in private practice before becoming a judge on the Washington County Circuit Court in 2020.

Wilkinson was “a beloved family man, a friend to all he came in contact with and a respected colleague,” said Jason Divelbiss, who formerly practiced law with Wilkinson, in an email to the Washington Post. “He could bring a smile to any room he entered.”

ABA President Mary Smith expressed condolences to Wilkinson’s family and colleagues in an Oct. 20 statement.

“We are angered at yet another attack on a jurist for doing the job they swore to do,” Smith said on behalf of the ABA. “Threats against the judiciary have increased more than fivefold in the past decade, and it needs to stop.”

“Courts and our justice system need to be open and transparent, but judges cannot be made targets for any disgruntled person with a grievance,” Smith said. “Congress recently passed the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act to bolster efforts to protect the federal judiciary and safeguard the personally identifiable information of federal judges and their immediate families. While some states have similar laws protecting state judges, more states need to adopt laws and policies to adequately fund judicial system security protocols to prevent acts of violence related to the justice system.”

Updated Oct. 26 at 2:05 p.m. to reflect a new headline, a new lead and include additional reporting.

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