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Mid-South staff first to report key link between slain judge and man he ruled against in divorce

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With a display of lightning-fast collaboration, reporters Sarah Brumfield, Michael Kunzelman, Lea Skene, photo editor Jon Elswick and correspondent Ben Finley led the charge to make AP the first news organization to report that a Maryland judge who was shot to death in his driveway had presided over the divorce case of a man identified as a suspect in his killing.

When authorities named 49-year-old Pedro Argote as a “person of interest” in the killing of Maryland Circuit Court Judge Andrew Wilkinson, it took only a matter of minutes for AP to report that the judge had presided over Argote’s divorce case.

Reporter Mike Kunzelman plugged Argote’s name into the state’s online database of court records and found that Judge Wilkinson had presided over a hearing for the divorce case only hours before he was fatally shot in his driveway in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Reporter Lea Skene hustled to a Washington County courthouse to review the divorce case records. Her reporting revealed key details of the acrimonious dispute between Argote and his wife. The judge had awarded custody of Argote’s four children to his wife on the day of his killing.

Reporter Sarah Brumfield tracked down sources who knew and worked with the slain judge. She interviewed a retired judge who was Wilkinson’s mentor, adding a poignant quote to the story.

Washington photo editor Jon Elswick headed to Hagerstown to make photos from a news conference and scene of the crime. Law Enforcement Team reporter Alanna Durkin-Richer provided rich context and examples of violence and threats against judges across the U.S. Working as a ghostwriter, Ben Finley took feeds and stitched together crucial details.

The final product earned front-page play in The Baltimore Sun.

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