Law enforcement officers searched the area where a silver Mercedes belonging to a man suspected of gunning down a Washington County judge was found on Saturday, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
A local resident came across the vehicle in a wooded area off of Bottom Road in Williamsport, Maryland. Investigators said during a press conference that the vehicle belonging to suspect Pedro Argote may have been there since Friday—or possibly even Thursday.
They said an area search needed to be conducted before the vehicle was searched to ensure that Argote was not hiding somewhere.
Investigators said they did not believe that the community in Williamsport or the surrounding areas were at risk, but people should avoid the search zone, Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said.
Investigators plan to tow the Mercedes to a secure place 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 pull the computer, GPSs from it, and then the contents if we find anything in the vehicle.”
The Maryland judge fatally shot Thursday night outside his home in Hagerstown presided over Argote’s divorce case, according to court records.
Andrew Wilkinson, 52, was found shot on 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, officials said. A homicide investigation is underway.
“It is horrible. It is a horrifying loss — it’s hard to lose someone like that,” neighborhood resident Susan Porter said.
Argote is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who knows his location is asked not to approach him but to immediately call 911.
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 tags 4EH0408.
Court records show that Argote was named in a domestic violence petition in June 2022. It was dismissed at the request of the person who asked for it.
Wilkinson was a Washington County Circuit Court Associate Judge. He presided over a hearing Thursday morning in Argote’s divorce case, which was filed last summer, according to court records. Officials said Argote was not at the hearing.
A motive in the shooting was not immediately clear, so Maryland State Police deployed troopers to protect judges living in Washington County “out of precautionary reasons.” Police said Friday morning the shooting appeared to be targeted.
Some of Wilkinson’s neighbors did not want to appear on camera but did express their sorrow over his death
“You wake up and you think that you’re going to go to bed that night. You have a husband and now you don’t. You have a dad but now you don’t. Guns — I just do not understand,” Porter said.
Washington County deputies confirmed that Wilkinson’s wife and child were inside their Hagerstown home at the time of the shooting. They were not harmed.
Dennis Grove, the assistant mayor of Williamsport, told reporters that people in town are paying close attention to the search for Argote following the discovery of his vehicle.
“If, in fact, he killed the judge, then he certainly isn’t going to worry about killing someone else,” Grove said.
The area that investigators have been focused on has “a lot of farm ground on it,” Grove said.
“It’s wooded, so it would be really easy to hide out there for a long time if you needed to,” he said.
The U.S. Marshals Service is hoping to expedite the search for Argote by offering a reward of $10,000 for information that leads to his arrest.
He is believed to have ties to multiple places outside of Maryland, including, Brooklyn and Long Island in New York; Tampa and Clearwater in Florida; Columbus; and Indiana. He has ties to unknown cities in North Carolina, too, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
Albert said Argote’s family members—the ones who live locally—have been cooperating with law enforcement officers.
Various agencies are participating in the hunt for Argote, including the Maryland State Police, the Hagerstown Police Department, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryland Natural Resources Police, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Marshals Service Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, according to authorities.
The Maryland Judiciary said it is mourning Wilkinson’s “tragic death.”
“As we grieve his loss, we ask that you keep the Wilkinson family in your prayers and please respect their privacy,” the system said in a statement Friday. “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.”
A profile of Wilkinson on the circuit court’s website says he was born in Guam in 1971 and later attended the University of North Carolina before getting his law degree at Emory University. He coached several youth sports leagues in the area and had been a member of the St. Ann Catholic Church since 1985.
Previously, Judge Wilkinson was an Assistant Washington County 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.
SOURCE: CBS news