JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Alyssa Bustamante was a depressed and suicidal teen who was abandoned by her drinking and drug taking mother and her incarcerated father.
That is the image of the girl convicted in the brutal murder of her 9-year-old neighbor that defense attorneys presented to a judge during testimony at a sentencing hearing on Monday.
Bustamante, now 18, was just 15 when she strangled, stabbed and slashed the throat of Elizabeth Olten in St. Martin, Missouri, in October of 2009.
According to her attorneys, Bustamante attempted to kill herself by overdosing on Tylenol, sliced her skin hundreds of times and carved the word “hate” in her arm in the years leading up to the murder. Her attorneys also said that her dosage of the anti-depressant Prozac was increased shortly before she killed Olten, which may have made her more prone to unpredictable behavior and violence.
The testimony came after prosecutors read a disturbing journal entry written by the Bustamante the day of the murder in which she describes how it exhilarating it felt to kill Olten.
The Associated Press reports the passage read: “I just (obscenity) killed someone. 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 church now…lol.”
Bustamante’s grandmother and legal guardian, Karen Brooke, says that the teen seemed happier than usual that day, as she left for a church youth dance that evening. Brooke says that Bustamante was abandoned by her mother, who drank heavily and used drugs, in 2007, and that the then-13 year old teen attempted to kill herself not long after.
According to the Associated Press, Brooke told the court that Bustamante’s dosage of Prozac was increased two weeks before the murder. A psychologist testified that the increased dosage could lead to mood swings and violent behavior.
Prosecutors downplayed the Prozac angle, noting that Bustamante displayed deliberate behavior prior to the murder, including digging a grave days in advance and convincing her younger sister to lure Olten outside to play.
The victim’s mother, Patty Preiss, said her nine-year-old daughter left her home about 5 p.m. after begging to go play with Bustamante’s younger sister. Elizabeth was supposed to be back for dinner at 6 p.m., but her mother never saw her again.
FBI agents seized the journal from Bustamante’s bedroom during a search of her family’s home the day after Elizabeth went missing.
Bustamante suggested to FBI and the Missouri State Highway Patrol officials that the girl had probably been kidnapped and that whoever had done so deserved to be convicted.
Later, Elizabeth’s body was found concealed under leaves in another grave in the woods behind the Bustamante home.
Bustamante’s admission of guilt last month was part of a plea agreement with prosecutors who dropped the first-degree murder charge that would have sent her to prison for life without the chance of parole. She instead agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder. The amended charge is punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison or life with the possibility of parole.