Episode 030: Ally Kostial

March 7, 2022

When a bright college senior is found dead at a remote fishing camp, investigators and family members are left asking why. What happened to Ally?

Episode Media
Alexandria “Ally” Kostial (Facebook)
Ally Kostial (Facebook)
Ally Kostial & Brandon Theesfeld, 2016 (VSCO)
Crime scene at Buford’s Ridge (Lafayette County District Attorney’s Office)
Brandon’s arrest in Memphis (Lafayette County District Attorney’s Office)
Brandon Theesfeld (Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a story of a young woman who had her whole life ahead of her, taken too soon by a man who felt he couldn’t see another way out. This episode includes graphic descriptions and discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

Alexandria Kostial grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. She was an active kid who loved the outdoors. In her teens, Ally became quite the athlete, competing in track and field and joining her school’s cheerleading team and golf team. Academically, Ally was also a star. She was a leader on campus, participating in the Youth in Government club and becoming a member of the National Honor Society.

After graduating from Lindbergh High School in 2016, Ally decided to attend the University of Mississippi, majoring in marketing in the School of Business Administration. During her time at Ole Miss, Ally became a founding member of the Iota Omega chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority. She also founded the Ole Miss Golf Club where she served as president.

In the summer of 2019, 21-year-old Ally was getting ready to start her senior year. Instead of going home to St. Louis for the summer break, Ally decided to stay in Mississippi and take a few classes. She liked the more relaxed schedule, which gave her extra time to spend with her friends before senior year began in earnest.

On the evening of Friday, July 19, Ally decided to head down to The Oxford Square, a popular historic district packed with shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars. Located just a few miles from the Ole Miss campus, The Square was always bustling with activity, especially on a Friday night. That night, Ally was spotted outside Funky’s, a trendy New Orleans-style bar in the heart of The Square. She got an Uber and headed back to her apartment, where her roommates heard her coming in a little after midnight.

The next morning, Ally was gone.

Around 10:30am on Saturday, July 20, an officer with the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department was conducting a routine patrol on the north side of Sardis Lake, about 30 miles from the Ole Miss campus in Oxford. It was a quiet, remote area, popular with locals and college students who liked to boat and fish when the water was high and ride their ATVs in the lake bottom when the water was low.

As the deputy approached the fishing camp at Buford’s Ridge, he immediately noticed something that stood out from the peaceful landscape: the body of a young woman lying next to a picnic table on the lake shore.

The deputy called in the discovery, and soon the area was swarmed with law enforcement. They closed off the scene and began canvassing the area. Along the side of the dirt road lay a woman’s purse; inside, detectives found a driver’s license and student ID belonging to Alexandria Kostial.

On Sunday, July 21st, the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department released a statement confirming that the body of 21-year-old Ally Kostial had been found in Harmontown, Mississippi. They did not release any further details, saying only that it was an active investigation and that they were following several leads.

Multiple agencies were pulled in to assist on the case, including the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and the Mississippi Crime Lab, the Oxford Police Department, and the University of Mississippi Police Department. Ally’s body was sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy.

As soon as detectives identified Ally, they began reaching out to her friends at Ole Miss, asking them about Ally’s last whereabouts and who she might have been with at the time she disappeared. One name kept popping up: Brandon Theesfeld.

Ally and Brandon had met in the fall of 2016. Both were students in the School of Business Administration at Ole Miss. During the time they knew each other, the two had a complicated on-again-off-again relationship, one that seemed to have stronger feelings on Ally’s side than on Brandon’s. Brandon was described by multiple people who knew him as manipulative and misogynistic, and several of Ally’s friends have mentioned how she would cry over the way he treated her. But Ally wanted to see the best in Brandon, and he kept her on the hook for years.

As investigators dug into Ally and Brandon’s relationship, they also pulled surveillance footage from The Oxford Square, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ally on the night she disappeared. Combined with the text messages pulled from Ally’s Apple Watch, detectives began to piece together a timeline.

Although Ally disappeared in July of 2019, the trouble really began several months earlier. In April, Ally texted Brandon a picture of an inconclusive pregnancy test. Anxious about what this could mean for the future, Ally told Brandon that she wanted to talk to him in person and discuss what to do next.

But Brandon didn’t want to talk. He was clear that having a child was not in his plan. In a message dated April 14, he said, “I am serious, no kid at all, it will ruin my life.” He sent several messages along that vein. This was Ally’s mess to deal with – he would not have any part of it.

Over the next three months, Ally continued to reach out to Brandon, hoping he would be willing to discuss the issue. In early July, she texted him to say that she had been bleeding and was worried that something was wrong. Ally’s messages to Brandon were frequent and ran the gamut of emotions, sometimes anxious, sometimes playful, sometimes angry and frustrated. Finally, on the night of July 19, Brandon texted Ally and told her he wanted to meet up.

This is where the surveillance footage picks up. At 11:52pm, Ally is seen walking out of a local bar in The Square named Funky’s. Wearing a blue dress and white jacket, Ally stops for just a moment to give someone a hug before heading east down Jackson Avenue. Five minutes later, Ally meets her Uber driver at the corner of Jackson and Courthouse Square, outside Rooster’s Blues House. The drive home would take about 10 minutes.

According to Ally’s roommates, she made it back to the apartment just after midnight. But she didn’t stay long. According to cell phone records, Brandon picked up Ally at 1:28am, presumably so they could talk about the possible pregnancy.

Not long after that, Ally and Brandon were seen on a security camera at a gas station near Sardis Lake, just a few miles from Buford’s Ridge. The drive from Oxford to that area of the lake is dark and remote. Once Ally and Brandon turned off the main road, there would have been very few homes and no street lights. The paved road turns to dirt before it ends at the old fishing camp on the edge of the water.

Someone in the area later reported that they had taken their dog out sometime between 2:15 and 2:30am when they heard multiple gunshots from somewhere nearby. This timeline would make sense – if Ally and Brandon left her apartment around 1:30, it’s about a 45-minute drive to Buford’s Ridge. Investigators believe that Brandon took Ally up to the fishing camp, and once there, he shot her at least nine times. Ballistics indicated that he was sitting across from Ally at the picnic table when he fired the first shot. He then came around the table and shot her multiple times in the back as she lay on the ground dying.

He then left her there and returned to Oxford.

All day Saturday, Brandon hopped around Oxford, hanging out with friends like it was any other day. At one point, they even decided to go bowling. No one in Brandon’s life suspected that anything was wrong.

But Lafayette detectives were on his trail. Later that afternoon, they called Brandon and asked to speak with him about Ally. Brandon had multiple excuses for why he couldn’t talk, but he promised detectives that he would come down to the station first thing on Monday morning. When he failed to show up, investigators filed for an arrest affidavit and started tracking his cell phone and credit card activity.

Brandon’s cell data showed that he was on his way out of town, headed north towards Memphis, Tennessee. Lafayette County issued a Be On the Lookout for Brandon’s pickup truck, a black Ford F150 with a vanity license plate that said “TAK3IT.”

At 9:30am on Monday, July 22nd, Tennessee police spotted Brandon’s truck at a gas station in Memphis. Within minutes, Brandon was surrounded by law enforcement and taken into custody. Authorities later told reporters that at the time of his arrest, Brandon was wearing clothes that were stained with blood, and officers recovered a weapon from inside his truck, a .40-caliber handgun consistent with the shell casings found by Ally’s body.

Brandon was briefly held in Memphis before being transferred back to Mississippi and booked into the Lafayette County Detention Center without bond. He was charged with murder in the death of Ally Kostial.

A month later, instead of requesting bond, Brandon’s defense attorneys asked the court for a psychiatric evaluation to determine if their client was competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense. They also requested an evaluation of his sanity at the time of the alleged murder, claiming that new information had come to light. The judge granted the request.

A grand jury was convened in Lafayette County, where evidence such as the surveillance footage and cell phone data was presented. Brandon’s internet history included searches on how to get away with certain crimes, how to tie people up, and hollow point ammunition. His social media feed was also disturbing and graphic.

Prosecutors then brought forth a letter Brandon wrote to his parents on the weekend of Ally’s murder. The letter, which was discovered in his apartment, included statements such as “I’ve always had terrible thoughts… fueled by cocaine and alcohol,” and “I think this is the end for me. I’m either going to prison or going to die… I know I’m going to get caught.”

It appears that Brandon felt he had no way out. If Ally was pregnant, it would ruin his life. Two days before he met up with Ally, she had texted him a picture of her stomach; it was then that he said he wanted to talk. Later, Brandon would tell his attorneys that he didn’t believe Ally was really pregnant, but his actions say otherwise. He had been planning this for weeks.

On August 30, 2019, the grand jury indicted Brandon Theesfeld for capital murder. A month later, he entered a not guilty plea. When asked if he killed Ally, Brandon remained silent.

Over the next two years, the case moved through the court system, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, in August of 2021, Brandon Theesfeld – facing a possible death penalty – stood before a judge and changed his plea to guilty. In exchange, his charge was reduced to first-degree murder.

This time, when asked if he killed Ally, Brandon said yes. He addressed the court, saying, “There is no excuse for my actions. I have asked God for forgiveness, and I hope one day that you will find it in your hearts to forgive me.” He then apologized to the Kostial family. “I am sincerely sorry for the pain I’ve caused while taking Ally from you.”

Brandon was sentenced to life in prison. He will be eligible for conditional release when he turns 65.

Sadly, Ally’s belief in Brandon’s goodness led to a tragic end. District Attorney Ben Creekmore summed it up in a statement to 48 Hours. “I can’t imagine how there could be any way possible that Ally could have known that Brandon Theesfeld was capable of doing what he did to her. If she had any idea that this is what this person was capable of, she would never have gotten in that truck… I think love can blind us to certain things that other people can see that we can’t.”

Ally’s family and friends are determined to remember her bright smile and kind heart. A small memorial has been set up on the picnic table at Buford’s Ridge, rocks arranged in the shape of a heart and messages left by those who loved her.

Ally’s story ended in tragedy, but yours doesn’t have to. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788. Help is available 24/7 – it is free and confidential.