Alyssa Bustamante sentenced to life in prison for killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten

Eighteen-year-old Alyssa Bustamante is escorted out of the Cole County Courthouse to a waiting sheriff’s vehicle, which took her to the Missouri Eastern Women’s Prison in Vandalia. Bustamante was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison on Wednesday for second degree murder and armed criminal action in the 2009 murder of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten.

Eighteen-year-old Alyssa Bustamante is escorted out of the Cole County Courthouse to a waiting sheriff’s vehicle, which took her to the Missouri Eastern Women’s Prison in Vandalia. Bustamante was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison on Wednesday for second degree murder and armed criminal action in the 2009 murder of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten. Photo by Julie Smith.

“If I could give my life to bring her back, I would,” confessed killer Alyssa Bustamante said Wednesday morning as she faced the family of her victim in a Cole County circuit court room.

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In this courtroom drawing by News Tribune artist Jim Dyke, Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Anji Gandhi wait to hear the what sentence Alyssa Bustamante will receive.

“I just want to say I’m sorry for what happened,” she said, then paused to compose herself. “I’m so sorry ...

“If I could take this back, I know I would.”

Bustamante’s comments came moments before Cole County Presiding Judge Patricia Joyce ordered the teen to serve life in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and another 30 years in prison — to begin after the life sentence is finished — for the armed criminal action conviction. She does have the possibility of parole with the sentencing.

Bustamante, now 18, was 151⁄2 when she killed Elizabeth Olten, 9, on Oct. 21, 2009. She pleaded guilty to both charges Jan. 10.

Elizabeth’s family members wept as Alyssa made her statement before hearing Joyce impose the sentences.

Elizabeth’s mother, Patty Preiss, who earlier called Bustamante “an evil monster,” sat silently, staring forward during Bustamante’s apology.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE FROM THE NEWS TRIBUNE:

"If I could give my life to bring her back, I would," those are the words from Alyssa Bustamante to the family of her victim, Elizabeth Olten, prior to Bustamante receiving a life sentence in prison for the killing that took place in October 2009.

"I just want to say I'm sorry for what happened," she paused to compose herself, "I'm so sorry."

Elizabeth's family members wept as Alyssa made her statement prior to the sentence handed down by Cole County Presiding Judge Patricia Joyce.

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Elizabeth Olten is shown in a family photograph. Olten was killed Oct. 21, 2009, when she was 9 years old, by 15-year-old neighbor Alyssa Bustamante.

The sentence for Bustamante is one life sentence for the count of second-degree murder and 30 years on the count of armed criminal action. The sentences will run consecutively. She does have the possibility of parole with the sentencing.

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:

Mo. teen gets life with possible parole in killing

By DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A central Missouri teenager who confessed to strangling, cutting and stabbing a 9-year-old girl because she wanted to know how it felt to kill someone was sentenced Friday to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Alyssa Bustamante, 18, pleaded guilty in January to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the October 2009 slaying of Elizabeth Olten in St. Martins, a small rural town west of Jefferson City.

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.

Bustamante was 15 years old when she confessed to strangling Elizabeth, repeatedly stabbing her in the chest and slicing the girl’s throat. She led police to the shallow grave where she had concealed Elizabeth’s body under a blanket of leaves in the woods behind their neighborhood.

The teenager’s defense attorneys had argued for a sentence less than life in prison, saying Bustamante’s use of the antidepressant Prozac had made her more prone to violence. They said she had suffered from depression for years and once attempted suicide by overdosing on painkillers.

But prosecutors sought a longer sentence. They noted that Bustamante had dug two graves several days in advance, and that on the evening of the killing had sent her younger sister to lure Elizabeth outside with an invitation to play. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. David Rice testified that the teenager told him “she wanted to know what it felt like” to kill someone. Prosecutors also cited journal entries in which Bustamante described the exhilaration of killing Elizabeth.

“I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they’re dead,” Bustamante wrote in her diary, 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 massive search began for the missing girl.

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