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Mom of college student from NJ killed by stray bullet says ‘There’s a piece of my heart that was taken from me’


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The grieving family of the New Jersey teen killed by a stray bullet on her Nashville college campus have paid tribute to her “beautiful soul” — with her mom saying that part of her own heart was taken with the loss.

Jillian Ludwig, 18, a freshman at Belmont University, died overnight Thursday, two days after she was first found struck in the back of the head by a round allegedly fired by a career criminal.

“There’s a piece of my heart that was taken from me,” Ludwig’s mom, Jessica, told WKRN-TV.

The slain teen’s dad, Matt, said: “It’s kind of hard to comprehend. She was thriving so well and doing so well in so many ways, in every way.

“For it to all change so suddenly — it’s, it’s hard to, it’s hard to process. It’s impossible to process,” he added.

The family had raced to Vanderbilt University Medical Center when their daughter was at first fighting for her life, before succumbing to her injuries, WSMV reported.

Her aunt Geri Wainwright sent the outlet a text shortly before the family received the horrible news that she had died.

“Jillian has such a beautiful soul,” Wainwright wrote. “Her smile lights up any room and she is loved by everyone lucky enough to know her.

“Jillian is fierce. She lives every day with passion. Her fearlessness, spontaneity, love of laughter, kindness and compassion make her irreplaceable to our family. Losing her would forever change the fabric of our lives,” Wainwright wrote at the time.

“We sent our girl into the world to do amazing things. Given the opportunity, she would have. So we have to ask, why was this man free?” she continued.

“What kind of world do we live in where it’s not safe to take a walk near your college dorm in broad daylight? How could someone so carelessly dim the light of a star destined to shine so bright?” the aunt added.

“We sent our girl into the world to do amazing things. Given the opportunity, she would have. So we have to ask, why was this man free?” she continued.

Ludwig, a graduate of Wall High School in New Jersey, was an “accomplished student, musician, and vocalist,” she said.

“She chose to study Music Business at Belmont University. She loved the short time she’s spent at Belmont. She loves her life, her friends, parents and her younger brothers, Shane & Trevor,” Wainwright added.

On Thursday, the Wall Township Committee sent a letter to the community, remembering Ludwig and offering mental health resources, according to WKRN.

“We are incredibly saddened to hear about the tragic and untimely passing of Jillian Ludwig. Jillian was an exceptional young leader within our community,” it wrote.

“She graced us with her beautiful voice to sing the National Anthem at many township community events. Jillian was a member of the Young Women’s Leadership Committee of Wall Township and was the recipient of the 2023 Women’s Leadership Committee Scholarship Award,” the local committee said.

Ludwig performed at venues around her New Jersey community, playing bass and guitar along with singing during the Asbury Park Porch Fest and Red Bank in New Jersey, The Tennessean reported.

Her first show was more than two years ago, when she performed at The Saint in Asbury Park with her band Arcadia.

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