Slain Student Ally Kostial Was 1 Of 5 Women Killed In Mississippi During Single Weekend

Kosital, Lisa Nguyen, Arykah White, Shayna Cline and Zaria Newton all lost their lives to gun violence.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Alexandria “Ally” Kostial, the slain University of Mississippi student whose body was discovered in a remote area on Saturday morning, was one of five women who were killed across the state of Mississippi over the course of just 24 hours. 

Authorities say that Kostial, a 21-year-old marketing student, had been shot eight times. A fellow Ole Miss student, 22-year-old Brandon Theesfeld, has since been arrested and charged with her murder. Police say that he was found wearing bloodstained clothes and had a weapon in his car, but in a public statement released earlier this week, his father proclaimed his son’s innocence.

Kostial, a St. Louis, Missouri native, was one of five girls and women who lost their lives to gun violence within the same 24 hours, according to a report published Wednesday by the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.

The five girls and women — Lisa Nguyen, Arykah White, Shayna Cline, Zaria Newton, and Kostial — were all of varying ages and were residing in different areas across the state, according to the paper.

Newton, 20, was fatally shot after she and her boyfriend received a notification alerting them that their Brookhaven property had been broken into and they returned home to a robbery in progress. The suspects — four people the couple had been at a party with hours before — began shooting, fatally striking Newton, according to another report from the Clarion Ledger. Three suspects are now facing murder charges for Newton’s killing; the fourth died during a shoot-out with police.

Newton, a cosmetology student, “lighted a whole room with her smile," her sister, Zshakira Punkin Newton, told the paper, adding that she “wasn’t ready to go soon.”

Ally Kostial

Another armed robbery on Saturday night resulted in the death of Nguyen, 59, according to the outlet. Nguyen was working at the Steelman Grocery in Hattiesburg, an establishment she owned with her family, when a suspect or suspects who have yet to be identified or apprehended attempted to rob the store at around 6 p.m. that night. Hattiesburg police confirmed to the Clarion Ledger that Nguyen died at the hospital after being shot; no arrests have been made as authorities continue their investigation.

Saturday night also saw the death of Arykah White, a 16-year-old student who was attending a sixteenth birthday party held at the community center at Columbus’ Propst Park, when an altercation broke out in the parking lot, according to the Clarion Ledger. White was struck and killed by a bullet. Another teen, 17-year-old Curtis Lathan, was arrested and is now facing murder charges for killing White, whom Columbus police described as an “innocent bystander,” according to the paper.

Aside from Kostial, Cline was the only one to have known her accused killer. After police responded to a report of a disturbance at around 3:40 a.m. on Sunday, they found 19-year-old Cline dead in an abandoned lot from a gunshot wound, according to a report from the Hattiesburg American. Police found Cline's boyfriend, 31-year-old Billy Lester, across the street and took him into custody, the paper reports. He has since been charged with first-degree murder, police said.

Authorities have yet to clarify if and how Ally Kostial and the man accused of killing her may have known each other, but photos obtained by the Post show the two posing together at what appear to be public events.

A friend of Kostial’s said on Twitter earlier this week that Theesfeld had harassed Kostial to the point of tears for years.

“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,” the post reads. “You deserve hell you disgusting excuse for a human. #JusticeForAlly You will never diminish her sunshine."

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