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Father of slain student gives message of forgiveness at Campbellsville chapel

Joe Kilman, left, is with Travis McIntosh on the stage at Campbellsville University's chapel service Wednesday. Kilman's son, Josiah, was murdered on campus last weekend. YouTube screen capture

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – The father of the 18-year-old student who was murdered at Campbellsville University spoke at the school’s chapel service on Wednesday (Feb. 28) and asked those assembled to choose forgiveness because “it’s the center of what Jesus is.”

The emotion-charged service centered around the life of Josiah Kilman, who was found dead in his dorm room early the previous Saturday morning. He died by manual strangulation, according to preliminary autopsy report from the state medical examiner’s office. A wrestling teammate was charged with his murder.

Kilman’s father said he was at the chapel service to honor “an amazing young man.” He asked those assembled about their emotions, even asking them to yell out what they were feeling, which several did.

“Anger! Sadness! Unforgiveness! Emptiness! Hope! Love! Frustration! Mad! Confusion! Guilty! Condemned! Broken!”

“I felt every single one of those emotions simultaneously since the moment I got the phone call,” he said. “Emotions are one thing. We have choices in life. Forgiveness is something I didn’t hear because it’s not an emotion. It’s a choice.

“If Josiah was standing here right now, if he had the opportunity to speak to you, he would talk to you about forgiveness,” Joe Kilman said. “It’s the center of what Jesus is. Unforgiveness? That’s a curse. It comes with things you don’t want, things you don’t need.

“As Travis (McIntosh of Campbellsville University) stood here and challenged you from the life of Josiah, I challenge you to choose forgiveness because in that forgiveness, we become the light of Jesus.”

McIntosh, the athletic admissions counselor, had earlier spoken about Josiah’s life and impact.

“When I first met him, the second day of school, I was instantly intrigued,” McIntosh said. “Even in the brightest room, he was the brightest light. The young man showed me nothing else in this world matters but spreading the Gospel and leading people to Jesus Christ. He touched a lot of people in this room and in this place.

“Everyone in this room, and Campbellsville University as a whole, I challenge you as Josiah would have challenged. l challenge you boldly to be bold, be bold for Jesus. Pick up your cross and go seek the lost and love them and love them and love them.”

Josiah was a freshman theology major and wrestling team member from Columbia Falls, Montana.

A teammate, Charles Escalera, was charged with his murder and arrested. He is being held on a $2 million bond. No motive has been determined.

University President Joseph Hopkins said in a statement to the campus community Saturday that Kilman was a “bright light, and a person of incredible hope,” adding that his faith was contagious.

“The comfort I have felt from this community is overwhelming,” Joe Kilman said. “From the bottom of my heart, Campbellsville, thank you.”