Ally Kostial was an eternal optimist who always saw the best in everyone. According to her friends, this quality may have created a blindspot that led her to remain close to a fellow student at Ole Miss who is now accused of killing her.
“I’ve been around him several times,” one friend tells PEOPLE about Brandon Theesfeld, 22, the classmate arrested in the shooting death of Kostial, 21, after her body was found July 20 near a lake about 20 miles from the school’s Oxford campus.
“He was like the type of guy that, if you didn’t gibe with him, he’d be rude, he’d use his money to get things, he’d have six girls around the table and he’d sit back and laugh at them like a pig, he was super misogynistic,” says the friend, who asked that her comments not be attributed to her for fear of reprisals.
While the nature of the relationship between the victim and the accused is murky, “the things he’d say to Ally through text messages and stuff, it was so horrible — he’d say hurtful, degrading things,” the friend says.
“She was always down about him. I have all kinds of messages of her texting me paragraph after paragraph, asking me, ‘What do I do?,'” the friend says. “She was texting all her friends asking for advice. It was hard for me to watch.”
“He would tell her he loved her and then he’d say ‘F— you, I was just drunk, I don’t care about you,'” she says.
“All she wanted was to be enough for him and for him to want her, and he quite literally was the death of her.”
A defense attorney for Theesfeld, Tony Farese, tells PEOPLE that his client will plead not guilty when he is formally charged. To address specific comments about Brandon or rumors about the case “would be disrespectful to the Kostial family,” Farese says.
“Brandon comes from a good family, a good Christian home, his parents were divorced and have remarried and they all get along very well, and they have been very supportive of Brandon, and their hearts go out to the Kostial family and their loss,” he says.
‘Rainbows, Unicorns and Butterflies’
Photos from 2016 show Kostial and Theesfeld together in smiling poses, at parties and with arms around each other. But a close friend from Kostial’s hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, Samantha Martin, who says she visited Kostial four times in Oxford, says they were never a couple.
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“They honesty just talked, like, off and on for the three years that she was there, but they never officially dated,” says Martin. “I met a lot of Ally’s friends down there. I was around him a few times but, I don’t know, I just heard he wasn’t very nice from multiple people and that he just never treated girls very well, and he was just a scumbag.”
Martin is among those who — in interviews, at a candlelight vigil outside Kostial’s high school, and during her funeral — depict Kostial as a warm, empathetic “bright light” whose feelings were easily bruised by others who spurned her kindness and affection.
“Ally thought of the world as rainbows, unicorns and butterflies,” one of the many who considered herself Kostial’s best friend, former Ole Miss classmate Sarah Gast, wrote in a eulogy read aloud by a pastor at her funeral.
“She was so uplifting, she’d say, ‘You are so nice and so pretty and such a good person,’ and every time we’d go out and do something, she’d have a signature move, she would throw her arms open and say ‘I love you,” says Anna Pasco, a friend.
“Ally really was like that, she was really, really sweet, a good all-around person,” says Pasco.
A former college housemate of Ally’s, Lauren Riddick, also witnessed that trait in her friend — along with how this quality made her vulnerable when her positive feelings weren’t returned.
“Ally would talk to us about a boy,” whose name Kostial didn’t reveal to her housemates, Riddick tells PEOPLE. “She’d be crying, and she’d tell us bits and pieces of what was going on that day, and this was months and months before this [murder] happened, and we’d try to be supportive of what she was willing to share with us, and just be there for her.”
“Ally was so kind that she could find herself trying to fix him, or trying to forgive him,” she says. “She kept putting herself in the situation as a savior, to help, and not see what he did.”
Kostial did not explain to her housemates why she clung to her interest in the unnamed boy, says Riddick. “I think she knew that if she told us, we would probably cast concern and worry for her, and I don’t know that she wanted the attention and didn’t want us to be worried for her or intervene.”
‘A Complicated Relationship’
But Riddick nonetheless knew that Kostial had a connection to Theesheld. “I would say they had a complicated relationship, and on-and-off one, but at no point did she say he was her boyfriend,” she says. “It’s so awful.”
Others heard Kostial mention Theesheld repeatedly, both in conversation and in texts. One student, Rex Ravita, who lived on the same dorm floor as Theesheld during their freshman year at Ole Miss, recalled to PEOPLE that he once saw Kostial at a friend’s house “crying over him.”
“He would say to her, ‘Come over,’ then completely ditch her and then go out with another girl, or he would say that he loved her and then deny he ever said it,” says Ravita.
“They were not exclusive and she was on the hook for him,” he says. “He just led her on badly.”
Another Kostial friend posted on Twitter: “He harassed her for years, took advantage of her for years. I spent countless nights holding Ally close drying her tears about this monster for years. You deserve hell you disgusting excuse for a human. #JusticeForAlly You will never diminish her sunshine.”
Martin, who was Kostial’s classmate at Lindbergh High School, says, “She had a beautiful soul. She made sure everyone was included. She never, ever met a stranger, and was just such a bright light in our lives.”
“When her and another person had a disagreement, like normal high school girls do, she would always be like, ‘They’re just being so sassy, I don’t know why they’re being so mean.’”
“I was like, ‘Ally, it’s okay to be mad at those people, it’s okay to know that people aren’t as nice as you,’” she says. “I would always tell her, ‘The rest of the world is never going to be as nice as you are, and you need to realize that so you don’t get your feelings hurt as much.'”
Authorities say Kostial was seen on surveillance camera outside an Oxford bar on Friday night, July 19, but did not go in before apparently heading home around midnight and later leaving again without alerting her roommates, reports Jackson TV station WLBT.
Lafayette County Sheriff’s deputies on routine patrol found her body about 10:30 a.m. the next day in the remote lake area of Harmontown that boasts a fishing camp popular with both locals and college students. Authorities said she had been shot eight times.
Theesfeld was arrested on Monday, July 22, at a gas station in Tennessee, and allegedly was found with clothing that appeared to be stained with blood, reports Fox 13 Memphis.
He was returned to Mississippi and currently is being held without bond in the Lafayette County Detention Center.