BALTIMORE– Law enforcement officers are searching the area where a silver Mercedes belonging to a man suspected of fatally shooting a Washington County judge was found Saturday, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
A Maryland resident encountered the vehicle in a wooded area of Williamsport, Maryland. Investigators said during a news conference that suspect Pedro Argote’s vehicle could have been there since Friday, or possibly even Thursday.
Search of the area is being carried out prior to searching the vehicle to ensure Argote is no longer nearby. Investigators do not believe the Williamsport community or surrounding areas are at risk, but are asked to avoid the search area, Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said.
Investigators plan to tow the Mercedes to a safe location before searching it, Albert said.
“We have a warrant. So, we’re going to wait until we clear the area and it’s not an active scene, and then we’ll tow the vehicle to a secure area for search warrants,” Albert said. “You know, we’ll take out the computer, the GPS and then the contents if we find anything in the vehicle.”
The Maryland judge shot dead Thursday night outside his Hagerstown home was presiding over Argote’s divorce case, according to court records.
Andrew Wilkinson, 52, was found shot in his driveway on Olde Waterford Road around 8 p.m., the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.
Wilkinson was taken to Meritus Medical Center, where he died, authorities said. A homicide investigation is underway.
“It’s horrible. It’s a horrible loss; it’s hard to lose someone like that,” said neighborhood resident Susan Porter.
Argote is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who knows his location should not approach him and call 911 immediately.
Argote is described as 5’7″, 130 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He may be driving a silver 2009 Mercedes GL450 SUV with Maryland license plate 4EH0408.
Court records show Argote was named in a domestic violence petition in June 2022. It was dismissed at the petitioner’s request.
Wilkinson was an associate judge of the Washington County Circuit Court. He presided over a hearing Thursday morning in Argote’s divorce case, which was filed last summer, according to court records. Authorities said Argote was not at the hearing.
The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear, so Maryland State Police deployed officers to protect the judges who live in Washington County “out of an abundance of caution.” Police said Friday morning that the shooting appeared to be targeted.
Some of Wilkinson’s neighbors did not want to appear on camera but did express their sadness at his death.
“You wake up and think you’re going to go to bed that night. You have a husband and now you don’t. You have a father, but now you don’t. Guns… I just don’t understand it.” Porter said.
Washington County deputies confirmed that Wilkinson’s wife and son were inside their Hagerstown home at the time of the shooting. They were not harmed.
Williamsport Assistant Mayor Dennis Grove told reporters that people in the city are paying close attention to the search for Argote following the discovery of his vehicle.
“It’s a really small road, but there’s a lot of agricultural land,” Grove said. “It’s wooded, so it would be very easy to hide there for a long time if necessary.”
The U.S. Marshals Service hopes to speed up the search for Argote by offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
He is believed to have ties to several locations outside of Maryland, including Brooklyn and Long Island in New York; Tampa and Clearwater in Florida; Colon; and Indiana. He also has ties to unknown cities in North Carolina, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
Maryland’s judiciary said it is mourning Wilkinson’s “tragic death.”
“As we mourn their loss, we ask that you keep the Wilkinson family in your prayers and respect their privacy,” the system said in a statement Friday. “The Maryland judiciary is actively working with authorities to help resolve this matter and ensure the safety of our judges, staff and visitors, which remains our top priority.”
TO profile de Wilkinson on the circuit court website says he was born in Guam in 1971 and then attended the University of North Carolina before earning his law degree from Emory University. He coached several youth sports leagues in the area and had been a member of St. Ann Catholic Church since 1985.
Previously, Judge Wilkinson was a Washington County Deputy District Attorney from 2006 to 2012 and a member of the Character Committee of the State Board of Law Examiners from 2006 to 2019. He joined the court in January 2020.