by Geoff Fox
Police have said they believe the suspected shooter in the killing of a Washington County Circuit Court Judge last Thursday is no longer in the immediate area of Williamsport or Hagerstown.
The judge was fatally shot in the driveway of his home in Hagerstown on Thursday evening, October 19. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation.
According to a media release on the Washington County Sheriff’s social media page on October 20, around 8 p.m. on October 19, deputies responded to a residence on 19100 block of Olde Waterford Road in Hagerstown for a reported shooting.
The adult male victim, identified as Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson, 52, of Hagerstown, was located in the driveway of the residence and appeared to be suffering from apparent gunshot wounds.
Wilkinson was transported to Meritus Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries.
Sheriff Brian Albert said the shooting was a targeted attack on Wilkinson and that his wife and son were home at the time of the shooting.
The suspect in the shooting was identified as Pedro Manuel Argote, 49, of Frederick, who was legally licensed to carry a gun. The type of gun used in the shooting was not revealed.
At the time of the shooting, it was revealed Argote was known to drive a 2009 silver Mercedes GL450. That vehicle was found in Williamsport on Saturday, but Argote was not in the vehicle.
“The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, along with local, state, and federal allied partners are actively working apprehend Argote,” Albert said.
While Argote has no criminal record in Washington County, Albert said the Sheriff’s Department had been called to Argote’s residence for verbal domestic assaults twice within the last few years.
The sheriff also asked the public to keep Wilkinson’s family, friends, and colleges in their thoughts and prayers during this “most difficult time.”
“This investigation is preliminary stages with the Sheriff’s Office and our law enforcement partners continue to gather information for proper charging and conviction in this matter,” he said.
According to online court documents, Wilkinson had presided over a hearing for Argote in which a partial judgment of absolute divorce had been rendered.
Albert confirmed Wilkinson had presided over the hearing and awarded full custody of the children to Argote’s wife, but the suspect was not present at the hearing.
After the shooting, and as part of the initial investigation, troopers from Maryland State Police and other officers were stationed at the houses of other judges overnight as a precaution.
“We don’t feel there are any threat currently to the other judges in the county or state,” Albert said at the time.
At a press conference in Williamsport, Sgt. Carly Hose announced Argote’s vehicle had been found Saturday morning around 11 a.m. in a wooded area off of Bottom Road in Williamsport on the Tannery property by a resident.
The area where the vehicle was found is in a high recreational spot due to hunting season and the C&O Canal close by.
Albert said the vehicle could have been at the location since Thursday or Friday before being found.
When asked at the press conference if police had found a gun in the vehicle, Albert said they hadn’t searched it thoroughly yet but police do not believe the gun is in the vehicle.
He also wanted to make sure search warrants were in place before properly getting in the vehicle.
A search was made in the Williamsport area, focused on abandoned and empty buildings and properties.
Albert said the area they were searching was a “pretty remote area” and it would “take a while.”
“We’re going to catch this guy,” Albert said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
There was a possibility Argote could not be in the area but police wanted to clear the area outside Williamsport just to be certain.
Albert also said within a 10-minute walk, he could be anywhere noting the canal, railroad, and other local roads.
“We’re just clearing it just so we can say, “Hey, he’s not here” or can hopefully locate him,” he said.
The sheriff said the family is cooperating with investigators.
In a Sunday evening post on social media, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said they had concluded search operations in the Williamsport area and no information indicated Argote was still in the immediate area.
“The Sheriff’s Office continues investigating leads and gathering information in this case,” the post read.
Albert said law enforcement does not feel there is an immediate threat to the area, but if anyone were to have information on Argote to contact 911 or their local police.
To contact the Sheriff’s Office with any information on the location of Argote is urged to call 240-313-2170 or the U.S. Marshals at 1-877-WANTED2, if the information is time-sensitive contact Deputy U.S. Marshal Maresca directly at 202-819-5058, or submit tips via https://www.p3tips.com/USMS.aspx.
The U.S. Marshals Service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that least to Argote’s arrest.
Argote has ties to multiple locations beyond Maryland, the U.S. Marshal’s Office said in a news release.
Those areas include Brooklyn and Long Island, New York; Tampa and Clearwater, Florida; Columbus, Indiana; and unknown cities in North Carolina.
On Friday morning, Maryland Judiciary released a statement on Wilkinson’s death.
“The Maryland Judiciary mourns the tragic death of Judge Andrew Wilkinson. As we grieve his loss, we ask that you keep the Wilkinson family in your prayers and please respect their privacy. The Maryland Judiciary is actively engaging with law enforcement to assist in resolving this matter and to ensure the safety of our judges, staff, and visitors, which remains our top priority,” the statement said.
Maryland State Police, Hagerstown Police Department, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, DNR Police, NPS Police, and U.S. Marshals Office are assisting the Sheriff’s Department in the investigation. Albert said other federal agencies have reached out to offer their assistance as well.
Albert described the Hagerstown area as a small, close knit community, that pulls together when something like this happens.
“It was a concerted effort last night,” Albert said Friday. “We had more resources than we need, but that’s a good thing.”
Wilkinson was appointed as a Circuit Judge in January 2020 by then-Governor Larry Hogan.
Wilkinson had been assigned to oversee two trials of Everett Allen, a Hancock man who is set to stand trial later this month for murdering his roommate in March 2021, which had been canceled in September 2022 and February 2023.