Alyssa Bustamante (January 28th, 1994 - ) was a 15-year old teenage girl from Missouri who beat, strangled, and slit the throat of 9-year old girl, Elizabeth Olten.
A Dark and Troubled Mind
Bustamante had reveled in her bad girl image. Her Facebook page bore images of her with red smeared lipstick, designed to look ominously bloody paired with black kabuki-style makeup over her eyes. She gritted her teeth, and made faces when she wasn't pouting like a sexpot. She was known around town as a bit of a bully.
Like many teens, she was deeply involved with social media and had pages on Myspace, Twitter, and Facebook.
She had a YouTube account under the name OkamiKage (Japanese for "WolfShadow") and filled out her profile. Under her hobbies, she listed "killing people, cutting."
She had been treated for severe depression and had tried to commit suicide. Her Twitter account stated that she was "somewhere I don't want to be." On the photo of her with smeared lipstick, she is pointing a finger at her head like a gun; many little red cuts are visible on her inner wrist.
A Tweet a few weeks before the murder read: "This is all I want in life; a reason for all this pain."
Her YouTube account featured several videos of her and her brothers, mostly just engaging in horseplay or mimicking Jackass stunts, but one in particular was disturbing, Idiots Getting Electrocuted by Elecrtric Fence. In it, Bustamante and her two younger brothers are standing in front of an electric fence. She gives the camera a grin and grabs the fence as she grimaces. Well aware of the pain it causes, she nonetheless convinces her younger twin brothers, 9, do the same. The screen reads: "this is where it gets goodthis is where we see my brothers get hurt."
They dutifully follow, ending on the floor, half laughing, half-shuddering.
The Murder and Confession
When Elizabeth Olten left to go home, she'd been playing with Alyssa Bustamante's half-sister, who lived a few doors down. The six-year old and the nine-year old pals hung out, and then, when Olten started her journey home, she was allegedly diverted by Bustamante who called Olten on her cell phone, and redirected her back to Bustamante's house.
Allegedly, Bustamante had then led Olten into the woods. Olten, who was afraid of the dark, would have trusted the older teenthey played together and were friends. But, Olten couldn't have anticipated that she would be brutally killedslashed on the neck and arms and then fatally stabbed.
The young girl's body was found in a grave; Bustamante admitted to digging two graves a week before the murders, giving rise to speculation that her twin brothers were the original intended victims. But a detail from the press conference gave people further pause. When Cole Country prosecutor Mark Richardson was asked why there were two graves, and whether one or both graves had been used for Elizabeth, he said only: "No, I can't tell you that right now."
The autopsy revealed that Olten had been strangled, her throat and wrists had been slashed and she'd been stabbed.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. David Rice said that Bustamante's motive was simple and terrifying. "Ultimately," Rice told the AP, "she stated she wanted to know what it felt like."
After the murder, a friend of Bustamante's came forward, saying that Bustamante had told her that she wanted to know what committing a murder would be like.
Jennifer Meyer went on KMOV in St. Louis: "I was at her party, and she kind of just took me off to the side randomly and she's like, 'You know, I wonder what it would be like to kill somebody,' because I guess she was mad at one of her friends there, but it just seemed kind of strange," Meyer said. "But you wouldn't logically think one of your friends would kill somebody.·
Alyssa, seeing that she finally had the opportunity to kill, took it. She grabbed Elizabeth Olten, beat her, strangled her, and finally, she stabbed her and slit her throat. She then dumped her body into one of the graves she had dug the week before in a nearby wooded area.
Police searched vigilantly for the little girl, including the area where her body would eventually be found, but they found no trace of her. They pinged Elizabeth's cellphone, and though it showed the location as being the woods where her body lay, the police searched the area without locating her, or her cell phone.
In the end, after a letter led police to Alyssa, she confessed. It was Alyssa herself who led police to the grave where the body of the brutally slain girl lay.
The why in this case is really simple, yet really complicated. The simple explanation given by Alyssa herself was that she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. The psychological implications of that statement are obvious; normal, mentally stable people, even if they have ever wondered that question themselves, do not go and actually commit a murder in order to find out. What made Alyssa take decide to actually satisfy her curiosity? That answer is a little more complicated.
As usual, it was a case of hindsight. There were clues and warning signs that something was not right with Alyssa. Alyssa had shown signs of psychological problems in the past. She had attempted suicide numerous times, and she was on medication for depression. She had been given both inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care after her last suicide attempt. She was a "cutter"; someone who generally deals with emotional pain by cutting and inflicting physical pain on themselves, or self-mutilating. Her best friend, when interviewed, claims Alyssa had once told her that she wondered what it would be like to kill someone.
She had many online accounts, but it was noted on her YouTube account in particular that she listed her hobbies as "killing people" and "cutting". Her YouTube account also had what police considered some disturbing 'home movies', including one where she urges her brothers to touch an electrified cattle fence, after doing so herself. Before the clip involving her brothers, Alyssa writes "this is where it gets good; this is where my brothers get hurt".
In addition, neither of Alyssa's parents were around, and Alyssa was in the care of her grandparents. Alyssa was born to a teenage mother, who has a criminal record for petty crimes, drug possession, an a DUI. Alyssa's father is in prison serving a 10-year sentence for assault. Alyssa was described as violent, depressed, and angry. None of these things are an excuse for murder, but we as a society have to question whether something should have been done for Alyssa before this happened. If someone had stepped in, could we have prevented this vicious murder from occuring?
Police have speculated that the reason that Alyssa had dug not one, but two graves, was because she had planned to murder her two younger brothers, but had instead grabbed the opportunity to kill Elizabeth when it presented itself. They feel the YouTube video backs up this theory; she clearly took delight in inflicting pain on her brothers. While there has been no corroboration by Alyssa of this allegation, the question of why there were two graves dug is an interesting one, that we might never know the answer to. Did Alyssa have different targets in mind for her crimes? Would she have killed again, if she had not been caught the first time
Trial, Verdict, and Sentencing
Alyssa was arrested, and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth Olten. She appeared in court on November 17, 2009, where the judge ruled that she should be tried as an adult. Despite her confession to the crime, as well as having led the police to Elizabeth's body, she has entered a plea of "Not Guilty". She is being held without bond.
While in custody, it has been reported that Alyssa has tried to harm herself by cutting herself with her own fingernails. It is said she has been exhibiting signs of anxiety and severe depression in jail, and has been under suicide watch. Due to a motion filed by her lawyer, she has been remanded to a psychiatric institution to undergo evaluation, and receive immediate psychiatric treatment.
A trial start date of May 16th, 2011 has been set for Alyssa Bustamante. There, she will stand trial charged as an adult with first-degree murder for the horrific slaying of her young neighbour, 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten.
Mental Health and Psychological Profile
After previous issues that delayed the trial of Alyssa Bustamante, she was finally set to face the murder charges, with a trial due to start in January 30th, 2012. Instead, Alyssa pleaded guilty to the charge of 2nd degree murder and armed criminal action.
There was an audible gasp heard in the courtroom when the now 18-year-old Alyssa admitted to taking a knife to throat of Elizabeth Olten and slitting it, then strangling her with her bare hands afterward. Her defense team tried to offer a number of excuses for what cause Alyssa to perform this horrid, haunting act, including the fact that she was on the anti-depressant "Prozac" as being a contributor, which she had begun taking in 2007 after a suicide attempt, and had started an increased dosage just two weeks prior to Elizabeth's murder. They recounted a family history of drug abuse, suicide attempts, and mental disorders, and said that her mother had abandoned her and her father was in prison, to try to explain the mental state Alyssa was in when she brutally murdered Elizabeth Olten.
Psychologists for the defense described Alyssa as "psychologically damaged" and "severely emotionally disturbed". They testified that she suffers from major depression, and also suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, which is a psychopathic personality structure ("secondary psychopaths") that is characterized by chronic feelings of emptiness, interpersonal relationship difficulties, black or white thinking ("splitting"), suicidal or homicidal ideation, instability of moods (which swing and rotate from intense extremes of anxiety, hopeless depressivemess, and irritibility), inappropriate displays of anger, identity disturbance, severely impaired ability to empathize, severe impulsivity, self-harm, exceptional manipulative behaviour and tactics, lying (even compulsive or pathological lying in some cases), pathological narcissism, attention-seeking behaviour, aggression, verbal exhibitionism, and sexially sedictuctive or provocative behaviour. Though the details of Alyssa's mental stability were quite disturbing - she had previous suicide attempts, a history of self-harm including over 300 cuts on her body, as well as self-inflicted cigarette burn marks - the most disturbing, and the most damning evidence presented was a journal entry that Alyssa made in her diary after the murder. She wrote: "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."
After days of very emotional testimony in the court, Alyssa broke down and cried for the first time in over 2 years of court proceedings, while the prosecution was making an impassioned plea for the judge to give her a life sentence. Alyssa, who had been staring at the floor impassively while the prosecution recounted her crime, broke down when grandparents got upset and stormed out of the courtroom. Alyssa's grandparents were not the only ones to have an emotional breakdown; after the judge's announcement that he would hand down a sentence the next day, the grandmother of the victim, Elizabeth Olten, yelled out "I think Alyssa should get out of jail the same day Elizabeth gets out of the grave!".
On February 8th, 2012, Alyssa Bustamante gave a final statement before the judge handed down her sentence; "If I could give my life to bring her back, I would", Alyssa addressed the court, while family members of her victim, 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten, wept, "I just want to say I'm sorry for what happened. I'm so sorry". She was then sentenced to life imprisonment, with the possibility of parole.