Friends and supporters of Alexandria "Ally" Kostial, who was found shot dead in a remote area near the University of Mississippi last Saturday, are paying tribute to the 21-year-old student with the #JusticeForAlly hashtag, helping bring awareness to the growing epidemic of violence against women. They are also advocating that the suspect, a white male from a privileged background, gets the justice they believe he deserves.
Brandon Theesfeld, 22, was arrested and charged with Kostial's murder earlier this week. He is being held at the Lafayette County Detention Center in Oxford, MS. New details about Kostial and Theesfeld’s relationship along with photos of the two together have emerged, with friends and family members saying that they had dated on-and-off in the past while both studying in the business school at Ole Miss. Investigators have not commented on their relationship.
Several friends have told news outlets that Theesfeld had been abusive to Kostial. “I truly believe that he manipulated her emotionally to have her believe that he loved her the same way she did, and I think he had her on the hook until the very last second,” Rex Ravita, a student journalist at Ole Miss who said he lived on the same floor as Theesfeld freshman year, told KMOV-TV. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Ravita said that Theesfeld was known around campus as a "misogynist" and that he led Kostial on. “He led her on A LOT, enough to where it could be considered emotional abuse,” Ravita said. “But he definitely had a violent streak.”
Another friend of Kostial's, who preferred to stay anonymous, told The Daily Beast that Kostial would confide in her friends about how Theesfeld treated her. “Ally would talk about how crazy aggressive he was,” the friend said. “I don’t know how many times she called me about him. About how he was treating her and about how he acted when they were together. We all told her to end it with him, but she always said she saw the good in him.”
Ally would talk about how crazy aggressive he was. ... We all told her to end it with him, but she always said she saw the good in him.
A tweet from another friend of Kostial's, who has since protected her Twitter account, echoed this statement. "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," she wrote. "You deserve hell, you disgusting excuse for a human."
This murder happened amid an alarming rise in intimate-partner murders in the U.S. According to recent research by Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, intimate-partner homicides increased every year between 2014 and 2017. Since 2010, gun-related murders of intimate partners have increased by 26%. Victims are overwhelmingly female; nearly half of all women who are murdered are killed by their partners or ex-partners, compared to 5% of male victims. On the same weekend Kostial was murdered, at least four other women were killed in Mississippi, one of them, Shayna Catherine Cline, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend.
Mary Ellen Manor, who said she went on two dates with Theesfeld after meeting him on Tinder, described him as "odd, very sketchy, like shady," as well as creepily persistent, to WLBT 3. "It freaked me out," she said about learning that he had been charged with murder. "I was like, ‘What if that could have been me?’ If I was still hanging out with him, what could have happened to me... It just freaked me out. I’m relieved that I’m okay, but I can’t believe I hung out with a dude who could be charged with such a thing, and it just made me very wary."
The case also calls up questions of privilege. Theesfeld, who is from Fort Worth, TX, had attended a private boarding school and was said to brag about the money his father made. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it, he was pretty much a daddy’s boy type, constantly had to reference his father’s money, how his dad could get him out of anything, just that attitude all the time,” Ravita told KMOV-TV.
Those tweeting with #JusticeForAlly asked news outlets to show Theesfeld's mug shot instead of photos of him in a bow tie or polo shirt, in order not to give him preferential treatment.
Since certain news outlets want to post pictures of this mf’er in bow ties, here’s his mugshot. I hope jail is worse than the darkest of hells for this piece of shit #JusticeforAlly pic.twitter.com/GguQoyaQdp— Left Field Mask (@LeftFieldMask) July 24, 2019
Police said Theesfeld, who was suspended by the university after his arrest, had minor scrapes with the law in the past, including charges of public drunkenness and possessing a fake ID. Before a Twitter account appearing to belong to Theesfeld was suspended, the account retweeted Trump news, Ben Shapiro memes, violent and misogynist "jokes," and tweeted jokes about being an alcoholic.
Kostial’s friends and family remember her as a well-liked, social, and active student. She was attending summer school and teaching fitness classes at Ole Miss, was a member of the Alpha Phi sorority, and had cofounded the school's golf club.
"Very spontaneous. She would do just about anything. She loved outdoors, she loved just hanging out with her friends, she was the person you always wanted to be around," her high school friend Sammie Martin told Fox 2 Now St. Louis. "When I was around her, I just felt like my spirit being lifted," Margaret Illig, another high school friend, told Fox 2.
“The thing about Ally was that she was so kind that I could see [her] being kind to even the most evil person. And not really seeing them for who they are,” Kostial's former roommate Lauren Riddick told WMC 5. “I think that’s how she could’ve gotten wrapped back up into the same situation over and over.”
Kostial's family has started a GoFundMe for her funeral expenses.
Ole Miss is a family and I am truly heartbroken over the recent events that have transpired involving Ally Kostial. I am praying for everyone involved to find peace and comfort during this time. #AllyKostial #JusticeforAlly https://t.co/QjKfxH01WL pic.twitter.com/7GJupMwj0N— Sarah (@sarahravv) July 23, 2019
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