UPDATE: Missouri teen to face murder charge as an adult

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | 5:39 p.m. CST; updated 10:36 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 19, 2009
Alyssa Bustamante, 15, has been charged as an adult in the first-degree murder trial in the killing of a 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten.

JEFFERSON CITY — Wearing pink ribbons in remembrance of the 9-year-old St. Martins girl killed nearly a month ago, two Jefferson City High School students watched as a classmate faced first-degree murder charges.

Alyssa Bustamante, 15, was indicted Wednesday on suspicion of killing Elizabeth Olten, 9. Bustamante was certified to stand trial as an adult.

"We went to school with Alyssa, but we're not here supporting her," said Maggie Fowler, a junior at Jefferson City High School.

On Wednesday, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce read Bustamante the charges against her and entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf. Bustamante, her wrists shackled to her waist, told the  judge that she had yet to meet with an attorney from the Missouri State Public Defender System and was unable to pay for her own defense.

Earlier in the day, in a separate judicial proceeding before a different judge, Bustamante was certified to stand trial as an adult rather than have her case handled as a juvenile matter. A juvenile defender was present at the hearing.

After the adult certification, a Cole County grand jury returned a two-count indictment against Bustamante for murder in the first degree and armed criminal action, according to a news release issued by Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson. The  prosecutor's office said Bustamante strangled, stabbed and cut Olten's throat with a knife.

Fowler's mother, Jodi Nichols, said that people were remembering Olten by wearing pink — her favorite color. Four people in pink T-shirts emblazoned with Olten's name circumscribed around a heart could be see sitting behind Richardson in the court's afternoon session. Nichols said Olten's family had been distributing the T-shirts.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem certified Bustamante to stand trial as an adult. He ruled that the crime was vicious and that the state did not have appropriate facilities to treat Bustamante as a juvenile, according to an earlier Associated Press story.

Both Fowler and Tiffany Lucas, 16, said they were surprised at the lack of emotion Bustamante showed during the indictment.

With bangs falling over her left eye, Bustamante blinked repeatedly as Joyce read the charges. A brief lip quiver was the only outward show of emotion by Bustamante during the afternoon session.

The two teenagers in attendance said they felt Bustamante should be tried as an adult.

"If they make an adult crime, they should be considered an adult," Fowler said.

While Fowler only shared a lunch period with Bustamante, she said she took off school so she could witness the trial for herself.

Lucas said she attended because a lot of rumors have been flying around school.

"They're trying to say it's linked to a teacher who committed suicide a few weeks earlier, but it's not," Lucas said.

A Jefferson City High School teacher, Bill Currie, committed suicide the Monday after Olten's body was found. Citing student privacy laws, school spokesman David Luther would not confirm whether Bustamante was in Currie's class or if the incidents are connected.

If convicted, Bustamante faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

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