More than 100 friends and family members mourned the loss of murdered University of Mississippi college student Ally Kostial this weekend at a funeral to celebrate the marketing student’s short life.
Loved ones gathered at Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood, just outside St. Louis, Saturday morning to honor Kostial, who has been described by those who knew her as a ray of sunshine.
Kostial was found dead in a remote area outside the University of Mississippi, where she had been a student, on July 20, after suffering multiple gunshot wounds.
Her high school track coach, Tom Gose, told local station KSDK that he drove more than 14 hours to memorialize his former student, who he described as “always smiling” and “sweet.”
“She was that kid — the reason that coaches coach,” he said.
Although Gose interacted with thousands of students during the 20 years he taught at Lindbergh High School, he said Kostial stood out because of her determination and grit.
Although she had no prior competitive running experience, she quickly stepped up and told Gose that she wanted to do distance running for the team.
“It speaks exactly to her at her core: She didn’t take the easy way out of things, she liked challenges, she was not afraid of working hard,” he said.
Gose was in Colorado when her family announced the funeral arrangements, but knew he wanted to be in attendance to pay his respects to her family.
“She deserves to have the people that knew her who she meant a lot to,” he said. “You can at least be there for a goodbye, at the very least.”
Kostial’s friends also held a vigil for the slain student Thursday night. Those in attendance held candles and shared photos of Kostial as they remembered the 21-year-old who was taken too soon.
"I think it really set in when I was talking about memories we had and looked out and saw everyone she impacted," friend Maddy Norris told KMOV.
Norris now said she plans to use her friend’s memory to give her strength.
"I'm going to try to be more happy all the time, like her," she said. "Be optimistic and live life to the fullest, like she did, and remember that smile in the back of my head to keep me going."
Authorities have charged fellow student Brandon Theesfeld, 22, with Kostial’s murder. The pair reportedly dated on and off for years — and can even be seen in social media pictures smiling and embracing one another.
However, friends of Kostial’s have claimed that Theesfeld was emotionally abusive and misogynistic.
“Ally would talk about how crazy aggressive he was,” one friend told The Daily Beast. “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.”
Theesfeld’s attorney, Steve Farese, told WMC that he was aware of the comments being made on social media about the 22-year-old.
“Most of them don’t know what they are talking about,” he said.
He said that Theesfeld’s defense team is already at work, and plans to look into whether there may be other potential suspects in the crime.
“He’s told us all about that day,” he said, declining to reveal any specifics of the college student’s movements the last day Kostial was seen alive.
Employees at the Lakeside Market in Harmontown, Mississippi, allegedly have confirmed that the pair was seen together at the market just hours before her body was discovered. The two were also captured on surveillance footage at the store, WMC reports.
Theesfeld is expected to plead not guilty to the murder charges against him, Farese said.
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