Alyssa Bustamante was 15 years old when she admitted to strangled and stabbed to death her 9-year-old neighbor, Elizabeth Olten.
Bustamante was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years for armed criminal action — she was tried as an adult.
A state Highway Patrol officer testified that Bustamante confessed to strangling her neighbor Elizabeth Olten because she, “wanted to know what it felt like.” A judge blocked part of Bustamante’s statement from being used at her trial.
She is 19 years old now.
Alyssa Bustamante, 18, is in the custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections, and will be for at least another 33 years.
Judge Pat Joyce handed down a sentence described as “harsh” by Bustamante’s public defenders Don Catlett and Charles Moreland, who were asking that the armed criminal action sentence be run concurrent with the life in prison sentence for second-degree murder. Joyce ordered Bustamante to serve life with the possibility of parole as well as a consecutive sentence of 30 years for armed criminal action with the sentences to run consecutively.
According to the Dept. of Corrections Parole Board, she’ll have to serve a minimum of 85 percent of the life sentence — which is 30 years under Missouri statute — and 33 percent of the 30-year armed criminal action sentence. That works out to be 35 years, five months, and three days, says Corrections spokesman Chris Cline. She will be credited with time served in the Cole Co. jail, a little over two years.
Prosecutor Mark Richardson had asked Joyce to hand down 71 years for armed criminal action because, as he stated in closing arguments, that’s how much time she took away from Elizabeth Olten, the 9-year-old girl she strangled, stabbed, slit her throat and then buried her in a shallow grave in the woods.
Bustamante, who was 15 at the time of the murder, was originally certified to be charged as an adult and pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Federal law prevents juveniles to be sentenced to death even when certified to stand trial as an adult.)
Later, the prosecution agreed to reduce the charge to murder two in exchange for a guilty plea, which also bypasses the jury trial process.
Though Richardson didn’t get the 101 years he asked for, he says justice has been served.
If Bustamante serves her maximum combined sentence — 60 years – she’ll be released when she is 76.
Defense Attorneys Charles Moreland and Don Catlett on the crime, sentence (31:18)
Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson on damage to Olten family, sentence (26:31)
Closing arguments were heard today in the sentencing hearing of Alyssa Bustamante, the now 18-year-old who strangled, stabbed and slit the throat of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten before burying her in a shallow grave.
The prosecution urged Judge Pat Joyce to give Bustamante the maximum sentence for second-degree murder — life with the possibility of parole — and another 71 years for armed criminal action so every time she’s up for parole she can explain, “Because I robbed 71 years from Elizabeth Olten on Oct. 21, 2009.”
Bustamante’s defense painted the picture of a “severely disturbed child” who suffers from bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and severe depression. The defense also pointed to a system they say failed her by not hospitalizing her before she hurt herself or someone else, calling attention to her long history of “cutting,” a fluctuating dosage of Prozac and a revolving door of therapists.
After two full days of testimony from family members, clinicians and psychiatrists, emotions ran high in the courtroom following the closing arguments. When prosecutor Mark Richardson said an excerpt from Bustamante’s journal, written days before the murder, stated “‘I’m gonna murder someone’ because of a phone issue,” Bustamante’s grandmother, Karen Brooke, had heard enough. She sobbed, stood up and stormed from the courtroom. After Richardson finished his statements, Olten’s grandmother — Sandra Corn — shouted, “I think Alyssa should get out of jail the day Elizabeth gets out of the grave!”
Bustamante, who has shown no emotion in the courtroom since being arrested in 2009, started crying while apologizing for the crime and was escorted back to her cell.
Judge Joyce will hand down a sentence at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
The state has brought seven witnesses forward during the first day of the sentencing hearing of Alyssa Bustamante, the 17 year-old charged with killing 9 year-old Elizabeth Olten two years ago near Jefferson City.
Jessica Machetta reports from the Cole County Courthouse. (1:16)