The man suspected of fatally shooting Maryland Judge Andrew Wilkinson over a child custody decision was found dead Thursday morning following a weeklong manhunt.
Pedro Argote, 49, had been sought after by law enforcement since the October 19 slaying of Washington county circuit court Judge Wilkinson, who had ruled in favor of Argote’s estranged wife in a child custody dispute just hours earlier. Police believe that Wilkinson’s decision to give the mother full custody of their four children and to ban Argote from any contact besides a $1,120 monthly child support payment motivated Argote to go to his home and shoot him dead, NBC News reported.
Wilkinson, 52, was found dead in his driveway. Argote was on the run until he was found at 11 a.m. Thursday, when a search in Williamsport led to the discovery of his body.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Argote was found deceased in a heavily wooded area about one mile away from where his vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz SUV, was found Saturday.
According to Sheriff Brian Albert, the sheriff’s office is “pretty sure that, you know, obviously we got our guy.”
“The Washington County community can breathe a little easier this afternoon,” he added at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
A reward of $10,000 was offered by the U.S. Marshals Service for tips leading to Argote’s arrest before he was found dead.
The cause and time of death is unknown until an autopsy is completed.
Albert added that the family of the slain judge was “appreciative” to hear of Argote being located.
“We just came from Judge Wilkinson’s viewing, met with the family. They were very appreciative,” he said. “It brings a little bit of closure to them, but it’s still a tragedy. They lost a husband, father and a brother.”
The late judge’s family was reportedly at home when he was shot dead just outside.
Wilkinson had been overseeing Argote’s divorce case, which was filed in June 2022. According to NBC, the shooting suspect was not present in court on the day of the judge’s decision to ban him from seeing his children, who range from ages 3 to 12.
“Court records show Argote’s wife filed a domestic violence petition against him in June 2022, alleging emotional and physical abuse, although it resulted in a dismissal less than two weeks later,” the outlet noted.
The police department has since “added some security throughout the community” to provide further protection to local judges, the sheriff said.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) made a statement regarding the judge’s murder.
“I am shocked, heartbroken, and sickened by the killing of Judge Andrew Wilkinson. He was the victim of a cold-blooded, vicious, and targeted attack. My heart goes out to Judge Wilkinson’s family, and my prayers are with everyone who knew him, loved him, and served alongside him,” Moore said.