JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Antidepressants did not cause Alyssa Bustamante to kill her nine-year-old neighbor, a psychiatrist for the prosecution testified on Tuesday.
Dr. Anthony Rothschild testified in the sentencing hearing for Alyssa Bustamante, who has pleaded guilty to strangling, stabbing and cutting the throat of Elizabeth Olten in October 2009. According to Rothschild, Bustamante’s medication did not contribute to her violent behavior.
Bustamante, now 18, was just 15 when she killed her neighbor and buried her in a shallow grave behind their homes in St. Martin, Missouri, in October of 2009.
Her attorneys, who described Bustamante as a depressed and suicidal teen, said 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.
According to her attorneys, in the years leading up to the murder, Bustamante attempted to kill herself by overdosing on Tylenol, sliced her skin hundreds of times and carved the word “hate” in her arm.
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.
Prosecutors said after killing Olten, Bustamante wrote in her journal, describing the murder as “enjoyable.” FBI agents seized the journal from Bustamante’s bedroom during a search of her family’s home the day after Elizabeth went missing. The Associated Press reports the passage read: “I just f—— 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, said Bustamante seemed happier than usual that day as she left for a church youth dance that evening.
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.
During the investigation, 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.