A father accused of shooting the Maryland judge who approved his wife’s divorce last week has been found dead.
Pedro Argote went on the run after Judge Andrew Wilkinson, 52, was shot dead in front of his family in the driveway of his Hagerstown home on Oct. 19.
The judge had banned Argote, 49, from seeing his family and ordered him to pay $1,120 a month in child support after learning of a “shocking” litany of abuse by the father of five.
His Mercedes SUV was found abandoned in a wooded area south of Hagerstown on Saturday.
And his body was found today a mile from the car, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.
The body of 49-year-old Pedro Argote was found this morning, a week after he was named by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office as a suspect in the murder of Judge Andrew Wilkinson
Maryland Judge Andrew Wilkinson, 52, was killed in his driveway in front of his family
Wilkinson had served as an assistant district judge in Washington County since 2020. He was pictured with his wife Stephanie at his swearing-in ceremony on January 10, 2020
“The deceased was located in a heavily wooded area between Clear Spring Road and Bottom Road, approximately one mile northwest of where the suspect vehicle was found,” the office added in a statement.
“The deceased individual has been positively identified as Pedro Argote, the suspect wanted for the murder of Maryland Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson.”
News of his death came just hours after court records released statements from Argote’s family hours before his disappearance.
His adult daughter said he locked her in her bedroom for most of her teenage years and beat her “with whatever he had around,” Washington County Court heard.
The father of four installed cameras throughout his Frederick home and “watched my every move,” she said, while his wife, Eugenia, said he was stuffing a towel into their crying baby’s mouth.
The daughter said she broke off contact with her father after leaving home at 18 to escape his abuse.
“The reason I had the courage to testify was so that my siblings would not have to go through the mental anguish that I am currently experiencing,” she told the court.
At an earlier hearing in March, Judge Wilkinson said he had an “uncomfortable feeling that Father has absolute control over Mother, her finances and her life.”
On the day of his death, he said the family dynamic became “crystal clear” and denied Argote visitation rights to his four younger children, ages 12, 11, 5 and 3.
“The way in which Mr Argote has isolated these children and their mother over the last two years has, in my view, continued throughout the marriage and it is shocking,” the judge said.
“I think he’s abusive in more ways than one.”
In his ruling on Thursday, Wilkinson ruled that Argote’s wife had “exclusive use and possession of the family home” and that he should not enter the property.
But Argote was not in court to hear the damning verdict after calling to say he had a “headache”.
“I’m not sure I find that credible,” Wilkinson said, explaining his decision to proceed.
Eugenia’s lawyer, Erika Garrott Johnson, said in court that he was afraid to listen to his family’s testimony “and because he knows the writing is on the wall.”
Attorney Ashley Wilburn, who is representing the children, said she was concerned for their safety, “particularly given that Mr. Argote did not appear today.”
But it was Judge Wilkinson who found his life in danger after returning to his Hagerston home that evening.
His wife Stephanie was at home with their son at 8 p.m. when the judge was shot in the driveway and died from his injuries a short time later in the hospital.
Tributes abounded for the popular judge, who volunteered as a Little League baseball and youth soccer coach while also being active in his local church.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin expressed “condolences to Judge Wilkinson’s family, his friends and all those affected by his public service.”
“No one should have to endure the pain of having a loved one taken away from them in such a way,” he continued in a statement.
“There is no excuse for this type of violence, especially against a court officer.” The rule of law is what keeps our society running. It may not be perfect, but individuals like Judge Wilkinson have worked every day to make it better and better.
“His passion was clearly serving the local community and for that Judge Wilkinson will be sorely missed.”
Maryland Congressman David Trone said he was “shocked and heartbroken” over the killing, adding: “It is horrific to see this violence in our community.”
“Our thoughts are with his family and with law enforcement investigating this crime during this unimaginable tragedy.”