Did clues from an Apple Watch solve a student’s murder?
▶ Watch Video: Sneak peek: What Ally Kostial Didn’t Know
When Cindy Kostial chatted with her daughter on the phone the evening of July 19, 2019, she had no idea it would be the last time she’d hear Ally’s voice. Cindy says she and her husband Keith had visited Ally in Oxford, Mississippi, earlier that week. “She wanted us to stay an extra day, she was having so much fun. She wanted me to cook her home cooked meals.”
Ally Kostial, who’d just finished her junior year at Ole Miss, was excited to have her parents visiting from St. Louis, Missouri, as she decorated her campus apartment, according to Cindy. “We went shopping. She loves a beach theme, so we just bought a bunch of new décor.”
Now back home, Cindy talked to Ally around 7 p.m. on that fateful Friday night. “She had just woken up from a nap. I said, ‘What are you going to do tonight?’ She said, ‘I’m going to go out with some friends.’ So, I didn’t worry about it because I know she does that all the time. And I said ‘Oh, that should be fun.'”
Cindy and Keith Kostial’s interview is part of this week’s “48 Hours” broadcast reported by “CBS Saturday Morning” co-host Michelle Miller, “What Ally Kostial Didn’t Know,” airing Saturday, March 5 at 10/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.
Just hours after that phone call, 21-year-old Ally was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds at Sardis Lake, 45 minutes from campus. Lafayette County Sheriff’s investigators got to work quickly, heading to Ally’s apartment. Her cell phone was gone but they found her Apple Watch in her bedroom and discovered some of Ally’s final text messages were with fellow student Brandon Theesfeld.
Theesfeld and Ally had a rocky relationship history, according to her friends. After meeting as freshmen, they dated casually. That stopped the following year but at some point in their junior year, they reconnected.
Investigators learned Theesfeld was planning on seeing Ally the night she died. That provided a strong early lead. According to investigator Jarrett Bundren, when they dug further into Ally’s texts, they found she had shared with Theesfeld some life-changing news. “She said that she thought she was pregnant,” said Bundren.
In April 2019, three months prior to her murder, the couple started texting back and forth about Ally’s situation. She even sent him a photo of a home pregnancy test that appeared inconclusive.
Theesfeld’s immediate response was that they would not keep the baby. Ally spent the next three months texting Theesfeld, asking to meet to discuss the situation in person. On the night before she died, Theesfeld finally agreed to see her.
Ally’s Apple Watch helped investigators track down Theesfeld just hours after she’d been found dead. They asked him to come to the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department to answer some questions. Theesfeld responded but investigators say he kept making excuses all weekend as to why he couldn’t meet, promising to come in Monday morning. When Theesfeld didn’t show, law enforcement started tracking his cell phone. They found he was headed north, appearing to be making his way home to Fort Worth, Texas.
With Theesfeld now seemingly on the run, a bulletin was sent out for his arrest. In just hours, Memphis police spotted Theesfeld at a gas station. When they took him into custody, they say he had blood on him and a gun in his truck that matched the caliber used to kill Ally.
In August 2019, Theesfeld was charged with capital one murder and faced the death penalty for allegedly kidnapping and killing Ally Kostial. Among evidence against him, a letter found in Theesfeld’s campus apartment, apparently written to his parents the weekend Ally was killed. Theesfeld wrote that he’d always had “terrible thoughts” and “this is the end for me … I’m either going to prison or going to die.” He also wrote “I know I’m going to get caught.”