An 18-year-old Missouri teenaged woman was sentenced on February 8 to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Alyssa Bustamante, who had confessed to strangling, cutting and stabbing a 9-year-old girl in 2009, pleaded guilty in January to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the slaying of Elizabeth Olten in St. Martins, a small town west of Jefferson City MO. The case became widely known in the media because Bustamante explained her motivation for the killing as having been based on a desire to know how it felt to kill someone.
Bustamante had been charged with first-degree murder and by pleading guilty to the lesser charges she avoided a trial and the possibility of spending her life in an adult prison with no chance of release. She was 15 years old when she strangled Elizabeth, and then repeatedly stabbing her in the chest and slitting her throat. The teen killer led police authorities to the shallow grave where she had concealed the body under a pile of leaves in a wooded area behind the neighborhood they had shared. Bustamante had dug two graves, leading prosecutors to theorize that she had premeditated the killing. A second grave prepared by Bustamante may have been dug for an eventual killing of her brother.
Defense attorneys had argued for a sentence less than life in prison, saying her use of the antidepressant Prozac made her prone to violence. They said Bustamante suffered from depression for years and once attempted suicide by overdosing on painkillers.
Prosecutors, however, sought a more severe sentence, pointing out the two graves Bustamante had dug in advance of Elizabeth's killing. On the evening of the murder, Bustamante sent her younger sister to lure Elizabeth outside. The two younger girls had been playmates. Missouri State Highway Patrolman David Rice testified that Bustamante told him "she wanted to know what it felt like" to kill someone. Prosecutors also cited journal entries in which Bustamante described her sense of exaltation following the murder. After killing writing her journal entry, Bustamante went to church. .
"I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they're dead," Bustamante wrote in her journal, which was read in court by a handwriting expert. "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 church now...lol." Bustamante then headed off to a youth dance at her church while a search commenced for the now dead Elizabeth.