Friends, family get closure as suspects plead guilty seven years after UK student’s murder

Friends, family get closure as suspects plead guilty seven years after UK student’s murder
Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 10:05 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It’s the closure the family of a UK student has waited nearly seven years for as three suspects were charged in Jonathan Krueger’s murder all pleaded guilty.

Roman Gonzalez, Justin Smith and Efrain Diaz Jr. were all charged in the April 2015 attack when Krueger was shot and killed during a robbery.

Krueger was 22 years old when he was killed. The journalism student always had a camera in his hand capturing some iconic moments in UK history. He especially loved following the football and men’s basketball team. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, those who knew him best will tell you they’d need more to describe how much he meant to them.

David Stephenson knows the emotion a simple photo can bring.

“I love photography for that reason. It’s a moment in time that was captured forever, and you can come back to it as many times as you want,” Stephenson said.

Photos of Krueger remind him of a shining student.

“He was one of the hardest working people around. But he loved what he did, and I think that was contagious, and it was a really great thing,” Stephenson said.

He was a standout photographer that could tell a story with just one snapshot.

“The world is missing somebody who was fun, and smart, and talented, and friendly,” Stephenson said.

On April 17, 2015, Krueger and a friend were walking near campus when police say they were approached by three men who tried to rob them. His friend was able to get away, but Krueger was shot.

“At the same time, it was really difficult for the Kentucky Kernel to lose a member of their own staff. So not only were they having to cope with losing a friend and a colleague, they had to cover it,” Stephenson said.

It’s been nearly seven years since that night. A huge step toward justice was taken on Thursday, as the men charged in connection to his murder all plead guilty and will be sentenced next month.

“I think today honestly is a bigger day than maybe sentencing. Today we know it’s over, and it’s done,” Stephenson said.

While it’s a moment Krueger’s family and friends have longed to put behind them, his memory and his photos, will still live on to tell his story.

“It’s really difficult to think about where he would be right now and what he would be doing. I know he would be successful at it, I have no doubt of that,” Stephenson said.

A friend of Krueger’s said he influenced countless people in his 22 years through his passion and drive to live life to the fullest.

A scholarship in his memory continues to benefit journalism students and help them buy equipment and begin their journey telling stories. If you’d like to donate to it, you can click here, and be sure to include “Jonathan Krueger Memorial Scholarship” in the “additional instructions” area.

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