Officials said Friday that a Maryland judge was fatally shot in his driveway on Thursday in a "targeted attack" that occurred hours after he gave the suspect's estranged wife custody of their children.
At 8 p.m., deputies who responded to a report of a gunshot in the 19100 block of Olde Waterford Road in Hagerstown discovered 52-year-old Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson outside the residence, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, as NBC News reported.
Sheriff Brian K. Albert stated at a press conference on Friday that the victim's wife and son were present at the time of his murder.
“The victim was suffering from what appeared to be gunshot wounds. He was transported to Meritus Medical Center, where he later succumbed to his injuries,” the sheriff's office said.
Thursday morning, Wilkinson presided over a hearing in the case that dealt with the "partial judgment of absolute divorce," per the court docket.
Sheriff Albert stated that the assault was in response to the mother of Argote's children being awarded custody. Argote was not present for the hearing.
The sheriff's office identified the homicide suspect as 49-year-old Pedro Argote of Frederick. He "is not in custody and is considered armed and dangerous," Albert told reporters.
Wilkinson presided over Argote's divorce case, which was submitted in June 2022. A copy of the partial judgment includes references to "cruelty of treatment" and "irreconcilable differences" between the parties. The court granted the wife an absolute divorce and sole custody of their four children, aged 12, 11, 5, and 3.
The court granted the wife exclusive use and possession of the family home and prohibited Argote from entering. According to the court's ruling, he must pay $1,120 per month in child support.
Argote, his wife, and the attorneys involved in the case did not respond to requests for comment immediately. According to the court, Argote's wife lodged a domestic violence petition against him in June 2022, which was dismissed within two weeks.
In her petition, the wife alleges that one of their daughters was subjected to physical abuse, that she felt unsafe because her husband carried a weapon and that she feared he would attempt to take the children away from her. She observed that Argote possessed a minimum of two firearms.
She also claimed he would send her harassing texts and emails, monitor her with home security cameras, and exert emotional and financial control over her. The sheriff verified Argote's legal ownership of a handgun, and it remains unknown why the petition was denied.
Albert stated that the sheriff's office had twice responded to a residence involving Argote for "verbal domestic assaults" in the past few years.
A Maryland State Police spokesperson told NBC News that troopers were deployed Thursday night "out of an abundance of caution" to "protect" Washington County justices. However, the sheriff stated on Friday that there is no threat to other county or state justices. Albert stated that the sheriff's office was unaware of any threats made against Wilkinson.