A man accused of fatally shooting the judge who presided over his divorce case had a history of controlling and cruel behaviour towards his ex-wife, according to court documents.
Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson died from gunshot wounds at his home in Hagerstown, Maryland on Thursday evening, hours after he awarded Eugenia Argote full custody of her four children.
Judge Wilkinson had presided over the divorce case since June 2022.
Ms Argote had petitioned the court for a protective order, writing that her husband was extremely controlling. He kept her car keys at all times so he knew when she was leaving home and stole money from her, The Maryland Daily Record reported.
Ms Argote said her ex-husband harassed her via text messages and used security cameras to monitor her, NBC News reported. She also accused him of being violent with their 11-year-old child in 2020.
In her petition, Ms Argote included that the couple had a long history of domestic incidents and in 2012, she had tried to get help from a domestic violence advocacy center. However, she claimed she did not receive the assistance she needed.
Judge Wilkinson granted a temporary order in June 2022 which required Mr Argote to leave the couple’s shared residence and surrender his firearms. However the order was later dismissed at Ms Argote’s request, though it is unclear why.
On Thursday, Judge Wilkinson awarded full custody to the mother. In his final decision, he cited a history of “cruelty of treatment” in the couple’s relationship.
Mr Argote was not present for the court hearing on Thursday but police believe that he showed up at the judge’s home later that night.
Around 8pm, Judge Wilkinson, 52, was found on the driveway of his home suffering from multiple gunshot wounds while his wife and son were home. He was taken to a hospital but later died.
Washington County Sheriff Brian Albert said in a press conference on Friday the attack on the judge was “targeted” and accused Mr Argote of retaliating because of the ruling.
Mr Argote does not have a criminal record in Washington County but police said they responded to reports of “verbal domestic assaults” in the past two years.
Local, state and federal authorities are assisting in the search for Mr Argote. He is believed to be driving a 2009 silver Mercedes GL450 with Maryland license plate number 4EH0408.
Anyone with information should contact law enforcement and not approach him.