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Estranged wife of UCLA shooter died of multiple gunshot wounds, coroner says

UCLA shooting

Smashed doors can be seen on the fourth floor of the UCLA engineering building where Wednesday’s murder-suicide took place.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A Minnesota woman who was killed by UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar was studying to become a doctor before her life “was cut short much too soon by her estranged husband,” according to the victim’s sister.

On Thursday evening, Sarkar’s former sister-in-law wrote on Facebook that she was “in a state of shock,” following the discovery of her sister’s body just hours earlier in Brooklyn Park, Minn.

“My sister, Ashley Hasti, was the smartest, coolest and funniest person I knew,” wrote sister Alex Hasti. “She could do anything she dreamed of, whether it was studying abroad in four different countries, acting in school plays, trying stand up comedy improv, and becoming a doctor.”

The post has since been deleted.

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The Hennepin County medical examiner on Friday identified 31-year-old Ashley Hasti as the woman whom Sarkar killed before he drove to Los Angeles and gunned down UCLA professor William Klug in his office Wednesday, sparking a campus-wide lockdown.

She was found dead at 1:25 a.m. Thursday. She died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to a statement from the medical examiner’s office.

“Because this was an unwitnessed death, a more accurate date and time of death cannot be determined,” the medical examiner said.

Investigators say Ashley Hasti appeared to have been dead for a couple of days before the discovery of a “kill list” led them to Hasti’s home.   

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Describing her sister as fearless, Alex Hasti said her sister drew inspiration from internist and media personality Dr. Drew Pinsky for “her journey in the medical field.”

“Unfortunately, she won’t get to see that last dream come true,” she wrote. 

Full Coverage: Shooting at UCLA >>

Ashley Hasti, who enrolled at University of Minnesota Medical School in 2012, had married Sarkar a year earlier. It is unclear when the pair separated or whether they were divorced. 

Her great-aunt, Charlane Bertsch, 81, told the Los Angeles Times that Ashley Hasti had finally found her “niche” in medical school and that “her heart was happy with that.”

Bertsch said it took Hasti a few years to finally figure out what she wanted to study. Ashley Hasti and Sarkar were students in California together, she said.

Although she never met Sarkar, Bertsch said Ashley Hasti and her husband never seemed that committed and had only lived together for possibly a year.

In conversations on Facebook or over the phone, Ashley Hasti never really brought him up, her great-aunt said. Bertsch didn’t think there was any bad blood between the couple.

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“He did his thing. She did hers,” she said.

Erin Anderson met Ashley Hasti while taking improv classes at the Brave New Workshop, a comedy theater in Minneapolis that holds workshops and performances.

Anderson said Ashley Hasti struggled with confidence and was scared to hit the stage, like everyone taking improv classes. But eventually, she learned to overcome her fears and would be “full of energy.”

“She was so friendly and loved by everyone for her positive outlook and somewhat oddball personality,” she said. “I’d for sure label her a nerd because she was just so curious about everything and hungry to learn. She was a little socially awkward, but never shy or worried about it.”

Anderson never met Sarkar, but she said everyone knew Ashley Hasti was married.

“I didn’t see him come to any shows or drop her at class,” she said.

She said  Ashley Hasti didn’t talk about Sarkar much.

“I think I remember her being excited to move into the Brooklyn Park home [that was her parents’] with him since they weren’t living together for a long time,” Anderson said.

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Ashley Hasti’s split-level home home in the Twin City suburb stood empty Friday morning. The police tape that stretched across the front lawn a day earlier was gone, as were investigators. A small black grill could be seen in the grassy front yard and three wood panels on the front door were dislodged. 

Her neighbors said they were still reeling from the news.

“I was very surprised,” said Gordy Aune, who sometimes spoke with Ashley Hasti and her father during neighborhood watch events. “You don’t expect this.”

Aune said the death had also sparked some soul-searching among residents. People wonder “if anyone could’ve helped,” he said.

Another neighbor, Terry Andrew, recalled seeing Sarkar at the house over the last two years, but said he never spoke with him.

“You never would’ve known” he was capable of shooting someone,” Andrew said. “Nothing odd stood out about him.”

At the time of shootings, Sarkar lived in a small, three-story apartment building in St. Paul. Another tenant there, Todd Sorenson, said he didn’t speak with Sarkar much -- their only encounters were less than friendly. Sarkar would tell him not to smoke cigarettes out of the window below his, Sorenson said. The last time they spoke was a year ago, he said, when he slammed the door in Sarkar’s face.

Word of Sarkar’s killing rampage scared Sorenson: “It really freaked me out.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, search efforts continued Friday for Sarkar’s 2003 Nissan Sentra with the Minnesota license plate 720 KTW.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the car may contain evidence and other clues to help them establish a motive and “put some pieces together in this case.” So far there is nothing to suggest Sarkar, 38, committed other crimes during his trip, Beck said, but detectives are working with authorities in various states “to see if there is a trail.”

Anyone who finds the car is asked to call authorities immediately and stay away from it.

Detectives don’t think Sarkar was in Los Angeles for more than a couple of days before walking onto the UCLA campus Wednesday.

Armed with two semiautomatic guns, additional magazines and a backpack, Sarkar stormed into Klug’s fourth-floor office in Engineering Building 4 and fired multiple rounds at him.

After killing the 39-year-old father of two, Sarkar turned the gun on himself.

At the scene, detectives found a note, asking someone to check on his cat, named “Kitty.”

That led investigators to his home in Minnesota, where they found a list of three names. Both Klug and Ashley Hasti were on the list, as well as a second UCLA professor. Authorities did not name the other professor, but did say he was unharmed. 

In recent months, Sarkar had lashed out at Klug, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, in online postings.

On March 10, Sarkar called Klug a “very sick person” who could not be trusted.

“I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy,” he wrote on his blog. “He made me really sick. Your enemy is your enemy. But your friend can do a lot more harm. Be careful about whom you trust.” He posted Klug’s photo.

Sarkar had accused Klug of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else, according to police.

Beck said detectives discussed the theft allegation with UCLA officials and found it to be without merit. “This was a making of his own imagination,” he said of Sarkar.

Times staff writers Richard Winton, Teresa Watanabe and Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.

MORE ON THE UCLA SHOOTING:

Slain UCLA professor William Klug, father of two, praised as ‘great man’ by students

How students coped during UCLA lockdown

Editorial: Just a murder-suicide in a small UCLA office. And so America shrugs

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.


UPDATES:

1:44 p.m.: This article was updated with information from the Hennepin County medical examiner.

11:54 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from friends and relatives of Ashley Hasti.

This article was originally published at 9:53 a.m.


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