OXFORD, Miss — If you want a glimpse of how Ally Kostial saw the world, friends say just look at the photos she liked to take. The glowing sunsets in the photos also give a sense of how they saw Ally, too.
“Just a ray of sunshine,” said Corbin Fox a friend of Kostial’s at Ole Miss. “Just a really great person that meant so much to so many people.”
From Sunset Hills, Missouri, and a graduate of Lindbergh High School, Ally was entering her senior year at Ole Miss. At just 21-years-old, friends say she had already served on multiple overseas mission trips, was involved in her sorority and had even started her own extracurricular club at Ole Miss.
“I really am proud of what she was able to accomplish while she was a student here,” Fox said.
Others on the Ole Miss campus outline a different picture of 22-year-old Brandon Theesfeld.
“Just odd, like very sketchy, like shady,” Mary Ellen Manor told Jackson, Mississippi, NBC affiliate WLBT-TV.
“When I would try to say, 'No, I'm busy,' he said, 'Oh, it's OK I'm not crazy,” said Manor.
And according to court records, over the past four years Theesfeld was cited for underage alcohol possession and later charged with public drunkenness and having a fake I.D. although those charges were later dropped.
“Some have said he was kind of a hothead, kind of the typical cliched, bad boyfriend attributes,” said Jake Thompson a reporter with the Oxford Eagle.
Friends say Theesfeld was an Ally's “on-again, off-again” boyfriend.
“And then you have some who would say there's maybe a mixture of both their personalities just clashing at times or certain days. And then they would calm down and get back together,” said Thompson who interviewed friends of Ally’s in Oxford.
Whatever their relationship was really like, Theesfeld would be one of the first people investigators wanted to find after the morning of July 20.
Ally was in Oxford early for her senior year teaching fitness classes. On the night of July 19, she went out in a part of town not far from campus known as The Square.
It's the town square surrounding the Lafayette County courthouse lined with shops, restaurants and bars where Ole Miss students often hang out.
The Square is also one of the last places anyone saw Ally alive. Security camera footage appears to show her checking in at one bar, then continuing on down the sidewalk near Roosters, walking by herself.
The Lafayette County Sheriff's Department said Kostial made it home by mid-night that night but then left again. Her roommates say they didn't hear her leave and they're not sure why she did.
After that, authorities say, another security camera saw Ally at a gas station with Brandon Theesfeld.
They were about 30 miles from campus near Sardis Lake, a popular lake for boating and fishing. The lake also has some secluded spots like that can be hard to find if you don't know where you're looking. An unmarked gravel road near Buford’s Ridge is one such place.
There are no homes close by and it's a long way to any major highway. At the end of the gravel road is an old fishing camp close to the water. Locals say people also come here to ride ATVs in the woods or just hang out. Police say they were on a routine patrol when they found Ally's body.
Officially, authorities will only say Ally died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Law enforcement sources tell WLBT-TV she was shot eight times.
Now, a small memorial grows on a picnic bench in the center of the crime scene with fresh flowers and messages to Ally written on the table.
The day after Ally’s body was found, a manhunt had cornered Brandon Theesfeld 90 miles away at a gas station in a residential neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee.
“That's not in a place that you will find somebody on a Monday morning at 9:30 unless they lived in there,” said Thompson the Oxford Eagle reporter.
“They've kept that part quiet about why he was up there and obviously they have a tracking his phone and any cards, debit cards, credit cards, and they pinged him up there,” said Thompson.
Lafayette County sheriff's deputies brought Theesfeld back to Oxford where a grand jury handed down a capital murder charge for Ally's death for allegedly murdering and kidnapping her.
Since then, people claiming to know Theesfeld have come forward describing him as “arrogant,” “misogynistic,” and “verbally abusive.”
“I would disagree with those characterizations,” said Theesfeld’s attorney Tony Farese. “The people who have responded in the blogs are, in my opinion, people who did not know Brandon.”
If there is a high-profile case anywhere near Oxford, Mississippi it's likely attorney Tony Farese will have a hand in it, earning him the moniker Mississippi Matlock.
Farese and his family firm are defending Theesfeld.
“We will be entering a plea of not guilty,” said Farese about his client’s case. But when asked if Theesfeld has an alibi for the morning Ally was found dead he said, “I'm not going to get into the specifics.”
Shortly after Brandon was charged, Theesfeld's father — a Dallas-area doctor — said his son is innocent and he had “evidence” to prove it.
Farese won't comment on that, but something he said in court could speak to his plan for a defense.
“We are also making a request for a psychiatric evaluation,” he told the judge when Theesfeld first appeared in court.
Farese waived a chance at bond for Theesfeld to expedite a psychiatric evaluation by the state hospital.
“Is he competent to stand trial? Is he competent to assist his counsel in the defense of his case? And then sanity at the time of the alleged offense,” Farese said of the questions he hopes the evaluation can answer.
He also tells 5 On Your Side, while it’s too early to say for sure, he does expect to ask for a change of venue should the case go to trial.
“All we want are 12 independent minds who were unbiased or have not heard anything about the case, who were going to be fair in evaluating the evidence,” said Farese.
It's hard to imagine anyone in Oxford hasn't heard of the case, given how much people seem to think they already know. Anywhere 5 On Your Side’s reporter and photographer went in the town of about 24,000, just about everyone they spoke with not only knew of the crime but had a theory about who did it and why.
“It's one of those where it's kind of like TMZ or Page Six would love the love stories like this because of all the rumors,” said Thompson.
But prosecutors and Theesfeld's defense team have stayed away from commenting on any rumors. The district attorney has stopped talking altogether.
And so have most students, at least publicly, when it comes to anything other than how they'll remember Ally.
“Take the headlines away, take away what happened. She deserves every single bit of praise and every, every kind of word that's been said about her,” said Ally’s friend and fellow Ole Miss student Corbin Fox.
As its first meeting of the new school year Fox spoke to the student body government about the impact Ally left on him and the campus. Then, as its first official act of the new semester, the student senators passed a resolution in Ally's honor trying to put into words her contribution to this campus. They are determined, they say, to remember Ally the way she saw the world.