She was fueled by curiosity. She studied Asian languages and took classes in four different countries. She tried her hand at stand-up and improv comedy.
Her knack for trivia dazzled. So did her ability to rouse a crowd into a singalong. Acquaintances were charmed by what they saw as an odd but engaging spirit.
Landing at medical school seemed yet another way to display her talents.
But then things turned dark for Ashley Hasti. Pitch-black dark. The kind that would leave friends and family to grieve. And question. And remember.
Her body was discovered early Thursday inside her home in a Minneapolis suburb. Hasti had been shot multiple times, according to a statement from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. A family member said a window on the split-level house had been broken.
Investigators said the 31-year-old appeared to have been dead for a couple of days. Police sources told The Times that the wounds and decomposition of the body complicated the identification process.
Hasti is believed to have been killed by her 38-year-old estranged husband, Mainak Sarkar, the former doctoral student who killed himself Wednesday after fatally shooting a UCLA professor and sending a frenzied campus into lockdown.
Beside the bodies was a note Sarkar left behind with his home address in St. Paul, Minn. That led authorities to a “kill list” that bore Hasti’s name, which led them to her body.
The couple had been dating in 2009 when Hasti was attending a post-baccalaureate pre-med program at Scripps College in Claremont. They married in 2011 and resided in Brooklyn Park, a city nestled along the west bank of the Mississippi River.
“They didn’t live together long – maybe a year,” recalled Charlane Bertsch, Hasti’s great-aunt.
Bertsch said the couple never seemed overly committed to the marriage and that Hasti didn’t bring up her husband during conversations. Still, she didn’t recall any great disputes between the two.
“He did his thing. She did hers,” Bertsch said. Hasti, whose mother died in 2011, remained close with her father and sister.
When Hasti began medical school, “her heart was happy,” Bertsch said. She described her grand-niece as amusing and kind, at ease with many. During family reunions, Hasti was known to sing and entertain.
"We'll miss her very much,” Bertsch said.
Hasti’s sister, Alex, took to Facebook to pay tribute. Hasti, she wrote, had been the coolest. The smartest. The funniest. The bravest.
“I always looked up to her because she did everything I wanted to do, but was too shy to even try.”
Among Hasti’s endeavors was overcoming stage fright at the Brave New Workshop, a comedy theater in Minneapolis where she took classes.
For UCLA shooter Mainak Sarkar, sudden rage after years of intense academic studies
Professor told UCLA shooter to 'keep a cool head' and 'keep good relations' with teachers
Parvini reported from Minneapolis, Bengali from Mumbai, India, and Rocha and Winton from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Corina Knoll and Kate Mather contributed to this report.