josiah kilman

Family and friends of a beloved first-year athlete at a Christian Kentucky college can’t understand why his wrestling teammate allegedly strangled him in his dorm room just days before their team traveled to Kansas to compete for a national championship. 18-year-old Josiah Kilman was found dead in his dorm at Campbellsville University just before 1 a.m. in late February. His death is one of four homicides on college campuses nationwide in 10 days.

Student Samuel Knopp, 24, and Celie Rain Montgomery, 26, were murdered in a dorm room at the University of Colorado at Colorado Spring campus on Feb. 16. Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley, 22, was killed on Feb. 22 while jogging on a trail on the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens. O’Brien Byrd, Kilman’s soccer coach from eighth grade through high school, told Fox News Digital, “It boggles my mind. I hope to God this isn’t a pattern we’re seeing, but I also think that this could happen to everybody anywhere.”

A Campbellsville wrestling teammate who asked not to be identified said Kilman had three roommates in his room in the school’s South East dorm. It’s unclear where they were at the time of his death or how Kilman’s body was discovered. The Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s Office determined Kilman’s cause of death to be asphyxia by manual strangulation, the Campbellsville Police Department recently announced. Sophomore teammate and engineering major Charles “Zeke” Escalera, 21, faces murder and burglary charges and is being held at Taylor County Detention Center on $2 million bail, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Fox News Digital. 

The Campbellsville Police Department has not released a motive in the shocking homicide. Tyler Gilfry, 19, Kilman’s childhood best friend from his hometown in Columbia Falls, Montana, characterized the slain student as thoughtful, humble, gracious and kind. He grappled with what could have pushed the suspect to the “unthinkable” act. Gilfry told Fox News Digital about Kilman, “He wasn’t the dude to start fights, but he was a dude that everybody liked – I can see someone getting jealous over him just being himself. Someone who was struggling with themselves seeing someone so outstanding and outgoing, just a great human being. That’s all I can think of. I can’t see anyone who would want to do that to Josiah.”

Since Kilman’s death, Gilfry said, he has been “protect[ing] himself and the people around [him] a little more,” making sure to lock his doors and that his friends don’t go out alone. Byrd, a soccer coach at Columbia Falls High School, said he appointed Kilman captain of the school’s team his senior year due to his remarkable grace and maturity.  In addition to wrestling, soccer, weightlifting and heavy involvement at the Fellowship Alliance Church, Kilman helped teach soccer to young kids at an annual summer camp, Byrd said. He added, “He was a full-blooded American teenage boy, a rascal like we all are in those years. He liked to pull pranks and tell jokes. He was just like all of his friends in that regard. But he had such great leadership characteristics.”

Kilman left behind two older sisters and an older brother, along with a 6-year-old younger brother, Aurelius. Kilman’s parents, Jessica and Joe, have raised over $65,000 on GoFundMe to transport the undergrad’s body home and cover his funeral expenses. Members of the teen’s wrestling team will fly into Montana to join Kilman’s family for a funeral service.

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