Suspect in Kentucky college wrestler’s dorm room murder busted in bloody shirt, admitted killing: detective

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The wrestling teammate charged with killing Kentucky theology student Josiah Kilman was arrested wearing bloodied clothing and admitted to interrogators that he’d “killed a man,” a detective said in his Wednesday court hearing. 

Charles “Zeke” Escalera, 21, had a preliminary hearing at the Taylor County Courthouse on a murder charge for the Feb. 24 death of 18-year-old Kilman. 

The Campbellsville University freshman was found dead in his room at the school’s South East dorm where he lived with three roommates, Campbellsville Detective Jeremy Burton told Judge Mike Hall. 

The Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s Office determined Kilman’s cause of death to be asphyxia by manual strangulation, the Campbellsville Police Department announced last month. The department has yet to release a suspected motive in the shocking killing. 

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Escalera lived in the same building – Burton said he knew Kilman, but was “kind of a secluded person” who generally “didn’t really hang out with the wrestling team [or]… in any dorm rooms.” 

To his knowledge, Burton said, Kilman and Escalera did not have an “acrimonious relationship.” 

He was apprehended by state police on a farmer’s property between Green and Taylor counties about 12 hours after Kilman’s body was recovered in the early hours of the morning. 

When he was arrested, Burton said, there was blood on the white sleeves of his shirt that was sent for forensic testing. The shirt was the same one that he was captured wearing on the dorm building’s CCTV. 

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Taylor County Circuit Court hearing for Charles Escalera

Police were alerted to Escalera’s presence on the farmer’s property after the landowner called to report him trespassing – when the farmer spotted him, Burton said in court, Escalera went “running across [a] field.” 

The 21-year-old also faces burglary charges for breaking into a barn on the farmer’s property, according to state police – a decision on those charges was sent to a grand jury in Green County, a court clerk told Fox News Digital.

Escalera acknowledged that he was a fugitive “because he’d killed a man” in his interview with Campbellsville detectives around 6 p.m. on Feb. 24, Burton said. Before requesting an attorney, Burton said Escalera “described how he provided the strangulation that caused Mr. Kilman to become deceased.”

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Josiah Kilman

Escalera was “slow to respond” in his half-hour interview, Burton said. His attorney, Travis Bewley, asked the detective if the engineering student’s response time seemed “odd,” or whether he was “just taking time to think about his answers.” 

On Feb. 20, Bewley said, Escalera had been hospitalized after displaying “strange behavior” in the school’s cafeteria – Campbellsville Police were called and Escalera was transported to a hospital for evaluation. 

He was released that same day – Bewley asked the detective whether, to his knowledge, Escalera was released “against medical advice.” Burton said he did not know. 

The college wrestler appeared via Zoom at the hearing, but did not speak. His attorney made no attempt to lower his $2 million bail.

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Josiah Kilman

Escalera’s next court case in Circuit Court will be scheduled if and when a grand jury decides to indict him on murder charges. 

Kilman, a Montana native, was a gifted athlete who played soccer, lifted weights and competed on his university’s wrestling team. Friends and family remembered his bright smile, strong Christian faith and loyalty to his loved ones.

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 possibly have pushed the suspect to the “unthinkable” act.

“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,” Gilfry told Fox News Digital about Kilman. “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.”

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