UNITED STATES NEWS

The vehicle has been found but the suspect still missing in the fatal shooting of a Maryland judge

Oct 21, 2023, 9:41 AM | Updated: 12:50 pm

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Authorities found the vehicle used by the suspect in the fatal shooting of a Maryland judge but asked the public to remain vigilant Saturday as they continued searching for the man.

Pedro Argote, 49, is suspected of gunning down the judge in his driveway hours after he ruled against him in a divorce case. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted on Facebook that the silver Mercedes SUV that Argote was believed to be driving has been located in Williamsport, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) southwest of Hagerstown, where the judge was shot outside his home. The sheriff’s office planned a news conference late Saturday afternoon.

“Anyone with information on Argote’s location should immediately notify law enforcement,” the sheriff’s office said in its statement.

Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson, 52, was shot Thursday night, just hours after he awarded custody of Argote’s children to his wife. Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said it was a “targeted attack.”

The U.S. Marshals Service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to Argote’s arrest.

In a news release issued late Friday, the Marshals Service said Argote has ties to multiple areas outside of Maryland, including Brooklyn and Long Island, New York; Tampa and Clearwater, Florida; Columbus, Indiana; and unknown cities in North Carolina.

Albert said Argote is considered “armed and dangerous.”

Wilkinson had presided over a divorce proceeding involving Argote earlier Thursday, but Argote was not present at the hearing, Albert said. The judge gave custody of Argote’s children to his wife at the hearing, and that was the motive for the killing, the sheriff said. The judge had also ordered Argote to have no contact with the children and pay $1,120 a month in child support.

Hagerstown, a city of nearly 44,000, lies about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Baltimore.

Judges across the U.S. have been the target of threats and sometimes violence in recent years. President Joe Biden last year signed a bill to give around-the-clock security protection to the families of Supreme Court justices after the leak of a draft court opinion overturning the Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision, which prompted protests outside of conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices’ homes.

In June 2022, a retired Wisconsin county circuit judge, John Roemer, was killed in his home in what authorities said was a targeted killing. That same month, a man carrying a gun, a knife and zip ties was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the justice.

A men’s rights lawyer with a history of anti-feminist writings posed as a FedEx delivery person in 2020 and fatally shot the 20-year-old son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, and wounded her husband at their New Jersey home. Salas was not injured.

In August, a Texas woman was charged with threatening to kill U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the Washington case accusing Donald Trump of conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss.

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The vehicle has been found but the suspect still missing in the fatal shooting of a Maryland judge