Monday, September 28, 2020

Oxford Locals Reflect on Summer Murders

By Madison Scarpino
Journalism Student 

The Oxford and Ole Miss communities are likely to never forget the summer of 2019. On July 20, 21-year-old Ole Miss student Ally Kostial was found dead about 20 miles from campus with multiple gunshot wounds. This was only two months after Oxford Police Officer Matthew Kinne allegedly shot 31-year-old Dominque Clayton in the head while she was sleeping. 

A grand jury indicted 22-year-ole Ole Miss student and Texas native Brandon Theesfeld for capital murder and kidnapping for the death of Kostial. Post-indictment, Theesfeld’s attorneys requested a mental evaluation, but the results are still pending. Theesfeld has returned to the Lafayette County Detention Center.

For many in the community, the murder was a shock. 

Oxford native Amanda Hyneman was born and raised in Oxford and is a third-generation Oxonian. Hyneman said Oxford was a great and safe place to grow up. Her doors were never locked and she never felt threated. She was shocked when news of the murder broke.

“It’s just so sad and it’s just so senseless. I think the town was just heartbroken,” Hyneman said. “I think people were just afraid that it could happen to anybody.”

Clayton and Kostial’s murder are not the only killings the town has experienced. Hyneman recalls another shocking murder she experienced in Oxford in 1986. Ole Miss student Jean Elizabeth Gillies was brutally murdered by a man she had dated named Douglas Hodgkin. Hodgkin has recently been paroled.

“The town had absolutely never seen anything like that. It was a big deal.” Hyneman said.

Oxford local Allyson Ashmore moved to Oxford from Memphis years ago, and was used to murders frequently occurring in Memphis. She says the city of Oxford was not prepared for this type of tragedy.

“There’s a lot of people in this town that never thought about that especially the people who were raised here,” Ashmore said. “It’s shocking and they’re unprepared for news like that.”

With a pending mental evaluation and no new information on the Theesfeld-Kostial case in the media, the story is gone from the headlines. It is unknown where the trial will be or when new information on the case will be shared.

“It’s sad that as time passes the memories fade and people tend to forget,” Hyneman said. “But when the trial comes…it will all come back.”