A teenager who slit her young neighbor's throat
and called it "enjoyable" may have the opportunity to walk free
Alyssa Bustamante, 18, was sentenced to life in
prison with the possibility of parole in a Missouri courtroom
The teen expressed remorse for brutally killing
her neighbor, Elizabeth Olten, in October 2009, in what
prosecutors described as a thrill killing.
"I know words can never be enough and they can
never adequately describe how horribly I feel for all of this,"
Bustamante said to Olten's mother and siblings, who sat silently.
"If I could give my life to get her back I would. I'm sorry."
Bustamante stabbed the 9-year-old girl in the
chest, strangled her, sliced her throat and left her in a shallow
grave covered with leaves so she could find out what it felt like
"I just f***ing killed someone. I strangled
them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they're dead. I
don't know how to feel atm [at the moment]," Bustamante wrote in
She later added: "It was ahmazing. As soon as
you get over the 'ohmygawd I can't do this' feeling, it's pretty
enjoyable. I'm kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I
gotta go to church now...lol."
Elizabeth's mother, Patty Preiss called
Bustamante "an evil monster" and said that she "hated her" on the
first day of the teen's sentencing hearing.
Prosecutor Mark Richardson had argued for life
in prison, plus 71 years, accounting for the years Elizabeth lost.
"These sentences are appropriate and fit what
happened to Elizabeth at the hands of a truly evil individual who
strangled and stabbed an innocent child simply for the thrill of
it," Richardson said in a statement.
The defense cited Bustamante's depression and a
suicide attempt as a reason for a reduced sentence.
On the teen's YouTube page, a video appears to
show the suspect with her brothers purposefully shocking
themselves on an electrified fence. She listed "killing people" as
one of her hobbies under her profile.
Her Twitter messages around the time of the
murder spoke of "addiction" and "terrors."
One message said, "all I want in life is a
reason for all this pain."
"She committed the murder after deliberation,
which means cool deliberation or cool reflection on the matter for
any length of time," Cole County prosecutor Mark Richardson told
the court Wednesday.
When most teenagers have a Friday off school,
they sleep in, maybe get together with friends, or bum around the
house in pajamas all day. When 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante of
Missouri had a Friday off from school, she spent the day digging
two holes in the ground to be used as graves. Then she waited.
Alyssa went on with life as usual, she went to
school, she hung out with friends; all the while just waiting for
the perfect opportunity to murder. That opportunity came just 4
days later, on October 21st, 2009 in the evening, when her
neighbour, 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten was walking home from her
Elizabeth was last seen at 6:15pm, when she
left her friends house to go home, her house was only a few houses
down. Elizabeth was never seen alive again. When she hadn't
returned home, the family frantically began looking for her, and
called police to report her missing around 7pm. Her family,
knowing she was afraid of the dark, and would not have wandered
off alone, grew increasingly worried. They knew that Elizabeth
would not stay out after dark alone willingly, and they knew they
needed to find her. What they didn't know was that it was already
What Happened & Why? "I Wanted To Know What It Felt Like To
Alyssa, seeing that she finally had the
opportunity to kill, took it. She grabbed Elizabeth Olten, beat
her, strangled her, and finally, she stabbed her and slit her
throat. She then dumped her body into one of the graves she had
dug the week before in a nearby wooded area.
Police searched vigilantly for the little girl,
including the area where her body would eventually be found, but
they found no trace of her. They pinged Elizabeth's cellphone, and
though it showed the location as being the woods where her body
lay, the police searched the area without locating her, or her
In the end, after a letter led police to
Alyssa, she confessed. It was Alyssa herself who led police to the
grave where the body of the brutally slain girl lay.
The why in this case is really simple, yet
really complicated. The simple explanation given by Alyssa herself
was that she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. The
psychological implications of that statement are obvious; normal,
mentally stable people, even if they have ever wondered that
question themselves, do not go and actually commit a murder in
order to find out. What made Alyssa take decide to actually
satisfy her curiosity? That answer is a little more complicated.
As usual, it was a case of hindsight. There
were clues and warning signs that something was not right with
Alyssa. Alyssa had shown signs of psychological problems in the
past. She had attempted suicide numerous times, and she was on
medication for depression. She had been given both inpatient and
outpatient psychiatric care after her last suicide attempt. She
was a "cutter"; someone who generally deals with emotional pain by
cutting and inflicting physical pain on themselves, or
self-mutilating. Her best friend, when interviewed, claims Alyssa
had once told her that she wondered what it would be like to kill
She had many online accounts, but it was noted
on her YouTube account in particular that she listed her hobbies
as "killing people" and "cutting". Her YouTube account also had
what police considered some disturbing 'home movies', including
one where she urges her brothers to touch an electrified cattle
fence, after doing so herself. Before the clip involving her
brothers, Alyssa writes "this is where it gets good; this is where
my brothers get hurt".
In addition, neither of Alyssa's parents were
around, and Alyssa was in the care of her grandparents. Alyssa was
born to a teenage mother, who has a criminal record for petty
crimes, drug possession, an a DUI. Alyssa's father is in prison
serving a 10-year sentence for assault. Alyssa was described as
violent, depressed, and angry. None of these things are an excuse
for murder, but we as a society have to question whether something
should have been done for Alyssa before this happened. If someone
had stepped in, could we have prevented this vicious murder from
Police have speculated that the reason that
Alyssa had dug not one, but two graves, was because she had
planned to murder her two younger brothers, but had instead
grabbed the opportunity to kill Elizabeth when it presented
itself. They feel the YouTube video backs up this theory; she
clearly took delight in inflicting pain on her brothers. While
there has been no corroboration by Alyssa of this allegation, the
question of why there were two graves dug is an interesting one,
that we might never know the answer to. Did Alyssa have different
targets in mind for her crimes? Would she have killed again, if
she had not been caught the first time
The Trial, Verdict & Sentencing
Alyssa was arrested, and charged with
first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth Olten. She appeared
in court on November 17th, 2009, where the judge ruled that she
should be tried as an adult. Despite her confession to the crime,
as well as having led the police to Elizabeth's body, she has
entered a plea of "Not Guilty". She is being held without bond.
While in custody, it has been reported that
Alyssa has tried to harm herself by cutting herself with her own
fingernails. It is said she has been exhibiting signs of anxiety
and severe depression in jail, and has been under suicide watch.
Due to a motion filed by her lawyer, she has been remanded to a
psychiatric institution to undergo evaluation, and receive
immediate psychiatric treatment.
A trial start date of May 16th, 2011 has been
set for Alyssa Bustamante. There, she will stand trial charged as
an adult with first-degree murder for the horrific slaying of her
young neighbour, 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten.
UPDATE: February 8th, 2012
After previous issues that delayed the trial of
Alyssa Bustamante, she was finally set to face the murder charges,
with a trial due to start in January 30th, 2012. Instead, Alyssa
pleaded guilty to the charge of 2nd degree murder and armed
There was an audible gasp heard in the
courtroom when the now 18-year-old Alyssa admitted to taking a
knife to throat of Elizabeth Olten and slitting it, then
strangling her with her bare hands afterward. Her defense team
tried to offer a number of excuses for what cause Alyssa to
perform this horrid, haunting act, including the fact that she was
on the anti-depressant "Prozac" as being a contributor, which she
had begun taking in 2007 after a suicide attempt, and had started
an increased dosage just two weeks prior to Elizabeth's murder.
They recounted a family history of drug abuse, suicide attempts,
and mental disorders, and said that her mother had abandoned her
and her father was in prison, to try to explain the mental state
Alyssa was in when she brutally murdered Elizabeth Olten.
Psychologists for the defense described Alyssa
as "psychologically damaged" and "severely emotionally disturbed".
They testified that she suffers from Major Depression, and also
displays symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, which is
characterized by feelings of emptiness, instability of moods,
inappropriate displays of anger, and poor impulse control. Though
the details of Alyssa's mental stability were quite disturbing -
she had previous suicide attempts, a history of self-harm
including over 300 cuts on her body, as well as self-inflicted
cigarette burn marks - the most disturbing, and the most damning
evidence presented was a journal entry that Alyssa made in her
diary after the murder. She wrote: "I strangled them and slit
their throat and stabbed them now they're dead. I don't know how
to feel atm. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the
'ohmygawd I can't do this' feeling, it's pretty enjoyable. I'm
kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to
After days of very emotional testimony in the
court, Alyssa broke down and cried for the first time in over 2
years of court proceedings, while the prosecution was making an
impassioned plea for the judge to give her a life sentence.
Alyssa, who had been staring at the floor impassively while the
prosecution recounted her crime, broke down when grandparents got
upset and stormed out of the courtroom. Alyssa's grandparents were
not the only ones to have an emotional breakdown; after the
judge's announcement that he would hand down a sentence the next
day, the grandmother of the victim, Elizabeth Olten, yelled out "I
think Alyssa should get out of jail the same day Elizabeth gets
out of the grave!".
On February 8th, 2012, Alyssa Bustamante gave a
final statement before the judge handed down her sentence; "If I
could give my life to bring her back, I would", Alyssa addressed
the court, while family members of her victim, 9-year-old
Elizabeth Olten, wept, "I just want to say I'm sorry for what
happened. I'm so sorry". She was then sentenced to life
imprisonment, with the possibility of parole.
Alyssa Bustamante and the Murder of
By Tricia Romano - Trutv.com
A Tale of Two Girls
45 minutes: That's
how long Elizabeth Olten was missing before her mother called the
That's how long it took Alyssa Bustamante, 15,
allegedly to kill her first murder victim, her neighbor Olten.
The most shocking thing of all? Alyssa
Bustamante's youth was trumped by her victim's: Elizabeth Olten
was only 9.
According to friends, family and neighbors,
Olten was all sweetness and light, a little girl made of sugar and
spice and everything nice, who loved cats, the color pink, and was
a real girly girl.
She had long medium-brown hair, wide-set eyes,
and was described a shy girl who "was afraid of the dark and would
not normally have gone into the woods," according to the AP,
making her disappearance more ominous.
Peggy Florence spoke on behalf of the family:
"She was somebody special. They call her a girlie girl. She would
be outside in the snow or in the mud in her frilly little
dress."Looking at photos from Bustamante's now-defunct Facebook
page, one sees a girl hardened beyond her years; pale blue eyes
rimmed with heavy black eyeliner, straightened bangs hanging in
her eyes and a defiant pout, chin stuck out at the camera. Even in
two dimensions, she had attitude and charisma to burn. Like many
troubled teens, she was labeled a Goth. In an alternate life, she
might have been a star; in this one, she may be one of the most
shocking teenage murderers, yet.
She's Just a Small Town Girl
The two neighboring communities from which the
girls came in Missouri, St. Martins and Jefferson City, epitomize
small-town America. St. Martins, where Olten lived, has just over
one thousand people. Everyone knows each other. So when Olten
failed to make it home on Wednesday, October 21, from a friend's
house just a quarter-mile away, there was cause for alarm.
The search began almost immediately. Though
there was a two-lane highway that ran the stretch from the friend
that Olten had been visiting to her own house, she had oddly taken
a shortcut through the woods, curving around and behind
neighboring lawns and backyards. By the time the search started,
with the aid of hundreds of volunteers, it was dark and cold, and
the weather had turnedit started pouringsearching the woodsy
terrain turned into a difficult process. Dave Wininger, a
volunteer firefighter who joined in the search for Olten, was
quoted by the Associated Press as describing the search area as
"brushy" and "hilly." "There's a lot of rocks, trees, and brush
piles. It's a very rough place to be," he said.
The searchers included dogs, firefighters,
police, helicopters, FBI, and highway patrol. They went over and
over the area, but were unsuccessful. Olten's cell phone initially
gave them a hint, but by Thursday morning, the battery had died.
A Hint, a Suspect
Until this point, the scenario that the
community and the police had feared was that an older male
predator had snatched up the girl as she walked home alone through
the woods. No one suspected that it was a member of the community,
much less a teenage girl. But details began to emerge and rumors
quickly spread. A teenager was described as a person of interest.
The police had gathered some evidence, writings that led to the
teenager. Bustamante didn't show up for school the day after the
murderher first and only unexcused absence.
Shockingly, the teenager then led the police to
the body. It had been in the very woods they had been searching.
"We had been in that area actually more than
once. The body was very well concealed," Cole County Sheriff Greg
White told the press.
Juvie or Adult - Male or Female?
For a while, there was public uncertainty as to
the gender of the person-of-interest.
Because the town was so small, Cole County
Sheriff Greg White declined to give more specifics until it was
decided how Bustamante was going to be tried.
"I know that it would be cathartic for the
public to know exactly what happened, but the difficulty with that
is, we have to maintain a prosecutable case," White was quoted in
an AP report. "We're not going to contaminate jury pools or
Because she was a juvenile, there was a
question whether or not she'd be tried as an adult, possible under
state law which could then make her eligible for the death
penalty. But Missouri has an unusual two-pronged system for
dealing with young offenders, one that mirrors Canada's.
Missouri is one of 22 states using a "dual
jurisdiction" system. If a suspect is found guilty, then the
offender can be held until age 21, when a new hearing is held, and
it is determined whether the offender has been rehabilitated or
should serve the rest of the sentence.
It was ultimately decided that Bustamante would
be tried as an adult. Her defense attorney Kurt Valentine
expressed disappointment with the decision, saying, "We are
throwing away the child and we are signing a death sentence for
Alyssa. She is not going to survive her time in the Cole County
As details of the murder came out, though, it
became clear this was not child's play-gone-wrong.
A Dark and Troubled Mind Revealed
Bustamante had reveled in her bad girl image.
Her Facebook page bore images of her with red smeared lipstick,
designed to look ominously bloody paired with black kabuki-style
makeup over her eyes. She gritted her teeth, and made faces when
she wasn't pouting like a sexpot. She was known around town as a
bit of a bully.
Like many teens, she was deeply involved with
social media and had pages on Myspace, Twitter, and Facebook.
She had a YouTube account under the name
OkamiKage (Japanese for "WolfShadow") and filled out her profile.
Under her hobbies, she listed "killing people, cutting."
She had been treated for severe depression and
had tried to commit suicide. Her Twitter account stated that she
was "somewhere I don't want to be." On the photo of her with
smeared lipstick, she is pointing a finger at her head like a gun;
many little red cuts are visible on her inner wrist.
A Tweet a few weeks before the murder read:
"This is all I want in life; a reason for all this pain."
Her YouTube account featured several videos of
her and her brothers, mostly just engaging in horseplay or
mimicking Jackass stunts, but one in particular was
disturbing, Idiots Getting Electrocuted by Elecrtric Fence.
In it, Bustamante and her two younger brothers are standing in
front of an electric fence. She gives the camera a grin and grabs
the fence as she grimaces. Well aware of the pain it causes, she
nonetheless convinces her younger twin brothers, 9, do the same.
The screen reads: "this is where it gets goodthis is where we see
my brothers get hurt."
They dutifully follow, ending on the floor,
half laughing, half-shuddering.
The Murder and Confession
When Elizabeth Olten left to go home, she'd
been playing with Alyssa Bustamante's half-sister, who lived a few
doors down. The six-year old and the nine-year old pals hung out,
and then, when Olten started her journey home, she was allegedly
diverted by Bustamante who called Olten on her cell phone, and
redirected her back to Bustamante's house.
Allegedly, Bustamante had then led Olten into
the woods. Olten, who was afraid of the dark, would have trusted
the older teenthey played together and were friends. But, Olten
couldn't have anticipated that she would be brutally killedslashed
on the neck and arms and then fatally stabbed.
The young girl's body was found in a grave;
Bustamante admitted to digging two graves a week before the
murders, giving rise to speculation that her twin brothers were
the original intended victims. But a detail from the press
conference gave people further pause. When Cole Country prosecutor
Mark Richardson was asked why there were two graves, and whether
one or both graves had been used for Elizabeth, he said only: "No,
I can't tell you that right now."
The autopsy revealed that Olten had been
strangled, her throat and wrists had been slashed and she'd been
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. David Rice
said that Bustamante's motive was simple and terrifying.
"Ultimately," Rice told the AP, "she stated she wanted to know
what it felt like."
After the murder, a friend of Bustamante's came
forward, saying that Bustamante had told her that she wanted to
know what committing a murder would be like.
Jennifer Meyer went on KMOV in St. Louis: "I
was at her party, and she kind of just took me off to the side
randomly and she's like, 'You know, I wonder what it would be like
to kill somebody,' because I guess she was mad at one of her
friends there, but it just seemed kind of strange," Meyer said.
"But you wouldn't logically think one of your friends would kill
Teen Girls Murderers
Distressingly, there have been other teenage
girl murderers, and if Alyssa Bustamante is convicted, she will
join the ranks of other infamous female murderesses.
Diana Zamora killed a romantic arch-nemesis,
Adrienne Jones in 1995, at the age of 17.
In Australia in 2006, the 16-year-old "Collie
Killers," tried murder just for fun, strangling and suffocating
One of the earliest known teenage female
killers, wasn't even a teenager. Mary Bell strangled a three-year
old boy and a four-year old boy just for kicks in 1968 at the
tender age of 11.
In 1979, Brenda Spencer, 16, bored of Mondays
at school, loaded the semiautomatic rifle her father had given her
and blazed away, killing two adults and injuring eight children
and a cop.
Still, a female offender as young as Bustamante
is rare enough that, had it been ruled that she would be tried as
a minor, authorities wouldn't have had the right facilities to
handle a convicted violent female underage criminal. She would
have likely been put in solitary confinement.
All in the Family
Bustamante may never have had a fighting chance
to make anything of herself. Bustamante was born to a teenage
mother. Her mother had committed some petty crimes involving drug
possession, and had been arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Her father was in jail, serving a 10-year sentence for assault.
Bustamante had been living under the watchful
eye of a guardian since she was seven. She was part of a religious
household and had a reputation as a good student, but her
psychological difficulties seemingly became too hard overcome.
Her internal pain continued in the days
following the murder. Once it was determined that Bustamante was
to be tried as an adult, she became distraught and was moved to
Hawthorn Children's Psychiatric Hospital for evaluation. She had
tried to cut herself and expressed suicidal thoughts. Her nails
were cut because she'd tried using them to cut herself. Later, she
was ordered by the judge to Fulton State Hospital for evaluation.
Here state-appointed lawyer also introduced a
motion to move the trial. He cited comments on news articles as
well as blogs, Facebook, and Myspace, purporting to come from
townspeople, most of whom excoriated Bustamante. In the online
world, Alyssa Bustamante was already convicted and hanged.
People wrote things like: "What is a shame is
that the Murderer did not die when she tried commit suiside when
she tried to in 2007."
And: "From what I've heard this girl has had
mental problems for some time and has seen counselors or someone
in the past."
And: "Either deport her or send her to the gas
chamber. One less sicko wasting our tax dollars."
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Olten got the funeral she
deservedthat of a princess. A horse-drawn carriage took her casket
to the cemetery, where her friends and family wore her favorite
Entering a Plea
On December 8, 2009, Alyssa Bustamante walked
in shackles and handcuffs into the Jefferson City courtroom
wearing a lime green prison jumpsuit. Her brown hair hung in her
eyes. Her chin still jutted, but her defiance had been muted by
the events of the previous months.
The circus had come to town: reporters were
Even with a confession, Bustamante entered a
not guilty plea.
More than two years later, on January 10, 2012,
Alyssa Bustamante pleaded guilty to second degree murder and armed
criminal action. Her first-degree murder trial was scheduled to
start later in the month; if convicted, she faced life without
parole. Now, having entered a guilty plea, she stood a chance of
being released. The punishment for murder in the second degree
can be life with the possibility of parole, or 10-30 years. The
sentence for armed criminal action is three years to life.
After she pleaded guilty, Cole County Circuit
Judge Patricia Joyce had Alyssa describe her actions on Oct. 21,
"I strangled her and stabbed her in the chest,"
Alyssa said. When asked if she also cut Elizabeth Olten's throat,
she responded, "Yes."
According to her attorney Charlie Moreland,
Alyssa decided to plead guilty because "she wanted to take
responsibility for it."
On February 8, Alyssa Bustamante was sentenced
to life with the possibility of parole. During a sentencing
hearing, forensic consultant Don Locke read aloud to the court a
page from Bustamante's diary, dated the day of the Elizabeth
Olten's murder. The entry had been scratched out, but Locke was
able to recover it. It read,
"I just f*cking killed someone. I strangled
them and slit their throats and stabbed them. Now they're dead. I
don't know how to feel ATM. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get
over the 'Oh My Gawd. I can't do this' feeling it's pretty
enjoyable. I'm kinda nervous and shaking though right now. Kay, I
got to go to church now LOL."