Authorities investigating a St. Paul man in Wednesday’s fatal shooting of a UCLA professor discovered a “kill list” in his apartment that led them to the body of his estranged wife.
Police found Ashley Hasti, 31, dead in her Brooklyn Park home shortly after 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Her name and the names of two UCLA professors were on the “kill list” found in the North End apartment belonging to Mainak Sarkar, 38, who killed himself after gunning down Professor William S. Klug. Police said Sarkar, who had two semi-automatic pistols and multiple rounds of ammunition, also intended to kill the second, unnamed professor who was off campus when he arrived.
“He was certainly prepared to engage multiple victims with the ordnance he had at his disposal,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference.
Sarkar apparently believed Klug had stolen some of his work while he was a doctoral student at UCLA.
Sarkar’s motive for Hasti’s slaying remains unclear. The two were married by a justice of peace in 2011, said Hasti’s grandmother, Jean Johnson. The couple split about a year later and Hasti moved back home to Brooklyn Park.
“They just didn’t get along,” Johnson said. The two didn’t divorce because Hasti couldn’t afford one, Johnson said. Hasti was in medical school at the University of Minnesota and expected to graduate next spring.
“The only enemy she had was him, I guess,” she said. “I never thought he would do something like that.”
The two met while Hasti, who grew up in the Twin Cities, was in school in California from 2009-10. Hasti attended a one-year post-baccalaureate pre-med program at Scripps College in Claremont. Sarkar seemed like a quiet, smart man, but he was “real hyper,” Johnson said. “He had trouble sleeping. He just needed to see a doctor.”
Johnson said she didn’t know whether there was any animosity or anger after the two split. “I would ask about him and Ashley would say, ‘He’s got his own place and he’s doing just fine.’ ”
At a midday news conference, Beck said Sarkar left a note at the UCLA scene asking authorities to check on his cat. That led police to the St. Paul apartment, where a second note with the “kill list” led them to Hasti’s body.
St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders said he could only confirm that the department searched an apartment in the 1000 block of Agate Street, traced to Sarkar through police and court records, to assist another agency. He said a suspicious package was found nearby and rendered safe by the bomb squad. At the request of Los Angeles police, Brooklyn Park authorities arrived at Hasti’s home in the 2400 block of Pearson Parkway and found her dead inside from a gunshot wound.
“What I can tell you is we believe she was deceased prior to the UCLA shooting Wednesday, but because it is so early in the investigation the timing [of her death] we don’t know at this point,” said Brooklyn Park Deputy Chief Mark Bruley.
There were no other police calls that week to the home.
Sarkar’s only contact with police aside from Wednesday’s search was in 2006 for a traffic accident.
Hasti was stellar student
At the time of her death, Hasti was enrolled for the summer term in the University of Minnesota Medical School, a university spokesman said. She’d been enrolled in the med school continuously since 2012. In 2008, she received a bachelor’s degree from the U in Asian languages and literatures, the spokesman said.
Jason McGrath, an associate professor at the U, taught two of her undergraduate classes. Even 10 years later, he remembers her earning top grades and having a warm personality, he said. In a recommendation letter for Hasti’s pre-med program, McGrath described her as “a student of rare intelligence and talent” who wrote a paper so good that he asked her if he could post it anonymously to the course website as an example to other students.
“She was one of the best students of her time,” he said. “She had an easy familiarity in talking even to her professors, which was appreciated because you like students who are approachable and don’t keep you at arm’s length.”
Hasti was a part-time liberal arts student at North Hennepin Community College from 2003 to 2006 and again from 2011 to 2012, said spokesman Mike Laninga.
Beck said authorities believe Hasti was shot “within the last couple of days,” and that Sarkar arrived in Southern California “very recently.”
Sarkar lived in Minnesota for a number of years, and “I don’t think either of them expected to see him,” Beck said of the professors. Beck said police have contacted the professor who was unharmed to make sure he is safe. “I would characterize his response as knowing [Sarkar] had issues with him,” Beck said, “but not to the level that would rise to homicide.”
The chief said police are looking for Sarkar’s car, a 2003 Nissan Sentra with Minnesota plate 720KTW, in hopes of tracking his movements and determining a motive.
Beck told KTLA-TV that it appears that mental health problems were a factor in the UCLA shooting He said Sarkar apparently believed that Klug, 39, had released intellectual property that harmed him.
Sarkar earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from UCLA in 2013, the university confirmed to the New York Times.
On March 10, in a blog post that has since been deleted, Sarkar called the professor “a sick person” who stole his work. “I was this guy’s Ph.D. student,” he wrote. “We had personal differences. He cleverly stole all my code and gave it [to] another student. He made me really sick.”
On the block where Hasti lived, Gordy Aune, a neighborhood watch leader, said he talked with people who lived at the home “a couple of times over the years.”
Wayne Hasti, Ashley’s father, also lived there, “but they weren’t around very often,” Aune said. Public records show Wayne Hasti has owned the home since 1995.
On her social media accounts, Hasti’s interests stretched beyond medical school to her pet cat, stand-up comedy at open-mic nights and rap parody songs.
“She was a kind, beautiful, giggly girl,” Johnson said. “Everybody liked her. I just don’t understand why he had to do that. He just took a big piece of my heart with her.”
Star Tribune staff writers Karen Zamora and Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.