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Police widen area of search for man suspected of killing Maryland judge

Police on Monday were continuing an intense search for the man suspected of killing the Maryland circuit court judge Andrew Wilkinson outside his home four days earlier and of later abandoning a car he was driving eight miles from the scene of the slaying.

The focus of the search for the accused murderer – identified as 49-year-old Pedro Argote – was shifting out of the immediate vicinity of Hagerstown, Maryland, after law enforcement authorities said they had found a silver Mercedes in Williamsport that he had been driving.

An undated photo provided by Washington county sheriff’s office shows Pedro Argote.An undated photo provided by Washington county sheriff’s office shows Pedro Argote. Photograph: AP

“Definitely [it’s] a possibility that he is not in the area, but we have to clear this area to make sure. It’s a pretty big area that we’re looking at,” the Washington county sheriff, Brian Albert, said on Saturday.

“We’re going to catch this guy. It’s just a matter of time,” Albert said. But he added law enforcement do not consider the community in general to be “at risk” from Argote, who was described as armed and dangerous.

Authorities nonetheless have placed state troopers around the homes of other judges in the area. The US marshals service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information leading to Argote’s capture.

Investigators say Judge Wilkinson had overseen Argote’s divorce case. Shortly before Wilkinson, 52, was shot dead, he had granted custody of Argote’s four children to his estranged wife during a divorce proceeding and denied him visitation rights based on a record of domestic violence.

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Wilkinson was shot multiple times in his driveway at about 8pm on Thursday while the judge’s wife and son were inside the family’s home. He later died of his injuries at a local hospital.

Maryland’s governor, Wes Moore, said he was “shocked, heartbroken, and sickened” by the killing. “Judge Wilkinson spent his career in defense of justice. We must now ensure that the perpetrator of this vile act faces justice and Judge Wilkinson’s family gets the support they need and deserve,” the governor said in a statement.

Police have said Argote has ties to New York’s Brooklyn and Long Island areas as well as Tampa and Clearwater in Florida. Other places he has ties to are Columbus, Indiana, and North Carolina, police said.

The suspect – who legally owns a handgun – was named in a domestic violence petition in June 2022, according to court records. It was later dismissed at the request of the petitioner.

Wilkinson’s murder is the third targeted shooting of a state judge over the past three years, according to the national center for state courts.

“The assassination of Judge Wilkinson should be shocking to all Americans,” said the conference of chief justices and conference of state court administrators in a statement.

“Unfortunately, we fear it is not. The sustained attacks in recent years on the rule of law, public institutions of government and the courts are now having their effects. We ask all Americans to think carefully about this troubling trend.”