Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Ally Kostial's father is remembering his daughter with a sweet childhood photo and words of gratitude for the outpouring of support after hundreds of people came to a vigil on Thursday for the University of Mississippi student who was found dead in an area outside campus.

Friends from her native St. Louis and sorority sisters from the University of Mississippi have been mourning her loss this week after the 21-year-old student was found slain in a wooded area 20 miles from campus on July 20 by a Lafayette County Sheriff's Department deputy on patrol.

Keith Kostial posted a photo of his daughter as a little girl on Facebook Thursday, writing that "This is one of my all-time favorite pics."

He also posted a message of thanks on Facebook for the comforting words the family has received since her death.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

"We are speechless from the amount of love and support that has been expressed and wish we could respond to each and every one of you,'' he wrote. "We thank you for all your prayers, blessings and kind words."

Police arrested fellow University of Mississippi student Brandon Theesfeld, 22, on Monday morning at a Memphis gas station 80 miles away and charged him with murder. Kostial was found on July 20 with eight gunshot wounds, sources close to the investigation told NBC affiliate WLBT.

Kleefeld's lawyer says he will plead not guilty. He is currently being held at the county detention center and no bond hearing has been set.

Police are not commenting on how Kostial and Kleesfeld knew one another, but the two can be seen together in photos posted in 2016 on social media.

Multiple houses on sorority row at the University of Mississippi, including the one where Kostial was a member, have hung black ribbons in her honor this week.

Her funeral services will be held on Saturday near her home in St. Louis. Nearly 200 people gathered at her former high school for a vigil on Thursday to remember the vibrant young woman gone too soon.

"She had a fire in her that will just never burn out,'' friend Samantha Martin told TODAY.

"She should be remembered in every way that she impacted people with her kindness,'' friend Hannah Bartz said.

Kostial, who was taking summer classes at the university, was last seen on the night of July 19 when she was captured on surveillance video walking up to a bar on campus and then walking away down the street. Her body was found just hours later near a lake 20 miles outside campus.

Her former roommate, Lauren Riddick, remembered her in a handwritten letter in which she writes in part, "I wish I could have protected you from this. I wish I was there. I am so sorry."

"There's so many unanswered questions and so I can't understand it,'' Riddick said on TODAY Friday. "I can't understand how a person could be so cruel."