Alyssa Bustamante was only 15, when she carefully premeditated the brutal murder of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten in the small Missouri town of St. Martins. On October 21, 2009, when Elizabeth Olten failed to arrive home by seven o’clock, her family did not hesitate in contacting the authorities to report the nine-year-old girl missing. Authorities quickly began searching for the missing 9-year-old girl, despite heavy rains and wind moving through the area at the time hampering the search efforts.
Throughout the night, authorities used a technique called pinging, where a signal sent to a cell phone helps locate the person based on the cell towers in the area that respond to the signal. The pinging technique narrowed the search to a heavily wooded area near Elizabeth Olten’s home in the early morning hours of October 22, despite Elizabeth’s mother telling the authorities “her daughter would never go into the woods alone, due to her fear of the dark.” Sadly, Elizabeth’s cell phone battery died before authorities could locate her. The search continued for two days.
Finally while being questioned by authorities on October 23, Alyssa Bustamante tells them she killed Elizabeth Olten. The teen later led authorities to a shallow grave deep in the woods, where she buried Elizabeth after killing her. She tells police, she dug the shallow grave the Friday before murdering Elizabeth while off school. In addition, Bustamante tells them she used her younger sister to lure Elizabeth outside before she is murdered.
After murdering Elizabeth Olten, Alyssa Bustamante wrote many of the details surrounding the girl’s murder in her diary. Bustamante confesses to authorities that she “killed the girl to find out what it was like to kill someone.” During the autopsy it was determined that Elizabeth Olten, was stabbed, strangled, and had her throat cut. Despite being, only 15 when she committed the murder authorities decided early on to try Bustamante as an adult.
Last week, Alyssa Bustamante pled guilty to second-degree murder allowing her to avoid a jury trial where she could have received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. During the court proceedings in Jefferson City, Missouri, Bustamante’s lawyers tried to lay blame on Bustamante’s actions citing a horrible childhood where she was born to a teen-age drug addicted mother, who later abandoned her daughter to the care and custody of the girl’s grandmother, who was her legal guardian.
Next, her lawyers tried to lay the blame on an antidepressant medication called Prozac, which Bustamante began taking in 2007 during a hospitalization for a suicide attempt. The court lists her psychiatric diagnoses to include Major Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. In court, Bustamante’s lawyers tell the court that the teen had her antidepressant medication dose increased just a couple of weeks before she murdered of Elizabeth Olten. Both, the defense and the prosecution placed psychiatrists on the stand to testify as expert witnesses for and against the theory that her medication may have caused her to become homicidal.
Regardless of what caused Alyssa Bustamante to carefully plan or premeditate and kill her 9-year-old neighbor she obviously knew right from wrong. This is evident in her journal entries made after she murdered Elizabeth Olten. While authorities were searching for Elizabeth that first night, Alyssa Bustamante described how she murdered the girl and how thrilling it was after she got over the initial fear. She even described the thrill of the kill as “ah-mazing.” Then she went to a church dance with her family as if nothing had happened.
In the end, Alyssa Bustamante who is now 18-years-old pled guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action (which comes from the use of a knife to attack her victim) last week and received a sentence of life in prison. This means she may be eligible for parole in the future. This is a frightening thought, in approximately 30 years Alyssa Bustamante may walk out of prison and return to society. How can anyone guarantee she will not kill again?