JEFFERSON CITY — A judge on Wednesday granted a central Missouri teenager's request to wear regular clothes instead of her jail uniform when she goes to trial on charges of killing her 9-year-old neighbor.
Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce ruled in favor of the clothes request that 16-year-old Alyssa Bustamante made through her state-appointed attorneys. The judge did not rule on another defense request that the teen be allowed to take high school distance learning courses at the public's expense while awaiting trial.
Bustamante is charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the October 2009 killing of Elizabeth Olten.
Authorities have said Bustamante plotted Elizabeth's death — digging two holes several days before — then strangled her, cut her throat and stabbed her. They said the teen confessed in a police interview to slaying the child because she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.
They said Bustamante ultimately led officers to Elizabeth's body, which was concealed in a wooded area near the girls' homes just west of Jefferson City.
Bustamante was a 15-year-old high school sophomore when she was arrested.
The teen has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail without bond. She did not attend Wednesday's hearing.
After talking with Cole County prosecutor Mark Richardson and Bustamante's lawyers, Joyce indicated that the trial likely won't occur until next year because of scheduling conflicts. A trial date could be set at the next status hearing in late July.
Joyce cited the "unusual circumstances" of the case and its "high level of publicity and interest" as her reasons for allowing Bustamante to wear her own clothes at trial.
Defense attorney Donald Catlett told the judge that the state still is obligated to provide Bustamante a free education, despite her being considered an adult for trial purposes. Lawyers for the teen are seeking to have the Cole County Sheriff's Office pay for online classes for her through the University of Missouri's Center for Distance Learning and Independent Study.
"The fact that she has been certified as an adult does not change her age," Catlett said.
Several of Elizabeth Olten's friends and family members attended the hearing. They stood outside the county courthouse before and afterward, wearing pink T-shirts in the girl's memory and holding homemade signs. One sign displayed the message "I Would Like to Finish My Education Too" with a drawing of the child's gravestone below it.
Family spokeswoman Pam Cafourek said Elizabeth's loved ones have chosen not to discuss the case until after the trial.