College Wrestler Charged With Murder Connected to Teammate’s Death

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Originally appeared on E! Online

The Campbellsville University community is reeling after a shocking incident on campus.

Charles E. Escalera, a student at the university in Kentucky, was charged with the murder of fellow student and wrestling teammate Josiah Malachi Kilman, Taylor County Clerk Susie Skaggs told E! News.

Escalera, 21, was arrested Feb. 24 after Kilman, 18, was found dead in his dorm room, NBC News reported. Kilman was a current athlete on the men's wrestling team, while Escalera—who went by Zeke—was also on the team from 2021 to 2022, according to the school's roster.

While Escalera was charged with Kilman's death, Campbellsville Police said in an update to the outlet Feb. 26, "A motive for the crime is still undetermined at this time, however the case is on-going."

Online records obtained by E! News show that Escalera was booked into the Taylor County Detention Center on a charge each of murder and second-degree burglary with a bond set at $2 million. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. Kilman died of asphyxia by manual strangulation, the Taylor County Coroner's Office announced in a press statement Feb. 26.

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Kilman's family—who noted that he was at the university on a biblical scholarship—honored him in a statement to WLEX-TV, saying he "was a beautiful, young, 18 year old Christian man from Columbia Falls, Montana who had a passionate heart on fire for the Lord."

"He was well known to many as an avid athlete and faithful religious leader," his loved ones continued. "Josiah influenced many hearts as he was a true example of compassion, kindness and love. His example compelled so many others to make the same changes he wished to see in the world and his impact on their lives will never truly be forgotten."

Campbellsville University Campus, Charles E. Escalera
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The university also shared their condolences after the tragic news.

"Our campus family is grieving a heavy loss at this moment, and our hearts are broken," University President Joseph Hopkins wrote in the Feb. 24 statement. "He was a bright light, and a person of incredible hope. His faith was contagious across our campus."

"We extend our deepest sympathies to Josiah's family, friends, and to all who had the privilege of knowing him," he added. "We stand together in prayer, offering our love and support during this time of mourning."

(E! and NBC News are part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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