Friday, November 20, 2009

Girl Said Hobby Was 'Killing People'

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On an Internet site, 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante listed her hobbies as "killing people" and "cutting." It may have sounded like a teenage exaggeration, but authorities say she fulfilled her words.

Even as new details emerge about the teenager charged with killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten, many facts about the crime continued to be kept secret Thursday — and may never be released by authorities unless Bustamante goes to trial for murder.

Bustamante, who had been in juvenile custody since leading police to Elizabeth's body Oct. 23, was certified Wednesday as an adult and indicted on charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. She is accused of strangling Elizabeth, cutting her throat and stabbing her.

Online court records showed Thursday that a public defender assigned to represent Bustamante filed a motion seeking to have her placed in a state hospital for immediate mental health treatment.

On a YouTube profile viewed by The Associated Press, which has since been taken down, Bustamante listed her hobbies as "killing people" and "cutting." A year ago, Bustamante posted a video to the site in which she appears to intentionally shock herself on an electric fence near her home, then goads her two younger brothers into doing the same.

In court Wednesday, juvenile justice officials testified that Bustamante attempted to commit suicide in 2007 and had been receiving mental health treatment for depression and cutting herself.

A police officer testified that Bustamante confessed to digging two holes to be used as a grave, then killing Elizabeth five days later without provocation because she wanted to know what it felt like.

But repeated objections by Bustamante's juvenile justice attorney prevented the police officer from explaining why two holes were dug. Cole County prosecutor Mark Richardson also has declined to elaborate.

"I know that, but I cannot go into those details right now," Richardson said.

Asked if he could say whether Elizabeth's body was found in only one of those holes, Richardson paused for several seconds and again replied: "No, I can't tell you that right now."

Richardson similarly declined to explain what the sheriff meant when he said last month that the investigation was aided by "some written evidence." The Cole County sheriff's office did not immediately return a call Thursday.

Those kinds of details might normally be included in a probable cause statement from sheriff's deputies or police as a basis for a prosecutor to file charges. But in Bustamante's case, there is no probable cause statement in the court file, because she was instead indicted by a grand jury.

Greater details of the crime also are included in Bustamante's juvenile court records, but those will remain closed under state law, said Cole County Juvenile Court Administrator Michael County.

No further details are expected to emerge at a Dec. 7 status hearing in Bustamante's case. It could be months, maybe even a year, before a trial at which witnesses would be called to explain the details and circumstances of the crime. But no trial — or testimony — would occur if Bustamante were to plead guilty to a charge.

Although he did not rule it out, Richardson said he wasn't inclined to agree to a plea on a charge of anything less than first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole.

"Because of the nature of the case, there is not a lot of room to enter into pleas," he said.

Fox News

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