Everyone who knew Alexandria Kostial loved that she was an eternal optimist. The 21-year-old always saw the good in people, which meant she treated everyone she met like a friend.
But it also made her vulnerable and prone to being hurt.
In 2019, Alexandria – known as Ally and originally from St Louis, Missouri – was studying for a marketing degree at the University of Mississippi, in the city of Oxford, USA.
She also taught fitness classes on campus and had started a golf club.
In her freshman year in 2016, she had met business student Brandon Theesfeld. Although they had never officially been a couple, they had dated on and off over the years.
Ally’s friends knew that she had fallen for Theesfeld, but that he didn’t treat her very well and could be emotionally abusive.
She would show them texts of him blowing hot and cold with his affections – saying he loved her one minute and then denying it the next.
Students said Theesfeld was arrogant and liked to brag about his family’s wealth. Some even called him a misogynist.
He liked to play the field and wasn’t committed to Ally. But Ally had some news for him.
In April, she messaged Theesfeld to say she thought she might be pregnant.
She sent him a picture of an inconclusive home pregnancy test and told him they needed to talk.
Theesfeld started to ignore her messages and rumours started to circulate around campus.
Ally’s friends heard she might be pregnant and other students heard that Theesfeld wasn’t very happy about it and wanted her to have an abortion.
He thought a baby would ruin his life and his future.
Ally tearfully told her friends she didn’t want an abortion.
She wanted Theesfeld to meet her but their communication was purely electronic for the next three months.
Ally had no clue just how badly the potential baby news had gone down.
Theesfeld’s internet history showed he was researching abortion pills and services. And he travelled home to Dallas, Texas, and posted a photo on social media of a Glock pistol his dad had bought.
The caption read, “Finally taking my baby back to Oxford.”
On 16 July, he started to research gun silencers, ammunition and tactical face masks. Theesfeld also looked into how serial killer Ted Bundy had lured his victims to their deaths.
Occasionally, he would agree to meet Ally but cancel at the last minute or not show up.
On 19 July, Ally was out for the evening. Surveillance footage captured her leaving a nightclub in Oxford before midnight.
She walked along and was looking on her phone. After returning home, she slipped out again without her roommates noticing.
Then, at around 10.30am the next day, a routine police patrol discovered a body in the remote area around Sardis Lake – a popular place for students to hang out, about 30 miles from downtown Oxford. The body was identified as Ally.
She had been shot eight times in the stomach and her purse was found dumped a mile away.
Straight away, Theesfeld was the prime suspect. He had messaged Ally the night before, asking her to tell him when she was leaving the bar.
His truck was seen heading to her home around 1am, then towards the lake.
Gunshots were heard at around 2.15am at the lake and Theesfeld’s phone placed him leaving the area 30 minutes later.
The bullets used to kill Ally were also the type for the gun he’d bragged about on social media.
On 22 July, Theesfeld was arrested at a petrol station in Tennessee and charged with capital murder.
He had blood on his clothing and his gun was found in his truck. It was matched to the bullets that killed Ally.
Investigators determined that he had lured Ally to meet him and killed her to stop her having the baby.
Tragically, an autopsy found Ally had not been pregnant after all. Had she really believed she was? We will never know.
Theesfeld was facing a death sentence on the capital murder charge, so he made a plea deal.
This August, Theesfeld, 24, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. The prosecution said he had been unhappy believing that Ally was pregnant.
They spoke about a letter he had written to his family, which was found after his arrest.
“I’m not a good person. It is not your fault,” he wrote. “Something in me just doesn’t work. I’ve always had terrible thoughts. I know I’m going to get caught.”
The prosecution said Theesfeld had tried to pressure Ally into getting an abortion and he had messaged suggesting that he had “felt becoming a father at this point in his life would ruin his life”.
So he had taken his gun and lured Ally to her death, driving her to the lake and repeatedly shooting her.
Afterwards, he had even looked up “Sardis, Mississippi news” – presumably to see if her body had been found.
The defence agreed after a mental evaluation that Theesfeld was sane and competent to face trial.
But they claimed drugs and alcohol influenced his behaviour.
In September this year, Theesfeld faced sentencing. He apologised to Ally’s family but had no explanation for his terrible crime.
“My actions have forever changed your lives and my family’s lives,” he said.
“I wish I could take it all back but I can’t. There is no excuse for my actions. I hope one day that you will find it in your hearts to forgive me.”
Ally’s heartbroken mum, Cindy, had written a letter that was read out in court, describing Ally as “bright, compassionate, sweet and hardworking”.
It went on, “I wish I could have kept her away from this evil, callous, scheming, ungrateful, sinister and violent and corrupt monster. He had every opportunity to do good in the world but he chose to do evil.
“Brandon, you belong in jail each day for the rest of your life for the heinous act you committed to such a sweet soul in Ally. Every time your cell door slams shut, may it be a reminder for what you did and the life you took from us.”
Theesfeld was sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole when he is 65. The case that had rocked the university two years earlier had finally come to an end.
Ally’s family, who had worn pink in her memory, asked the community to always remember her – to honour her the way she’d been committed to them.
They want the way she lived her life to be remembered, not the terrible way she died.
Ally had always tried to take the positive out of every situation and now her distraught family are trying their best to do the same.Read More Read More