It’s normal for teenagers to go through an angsty phase, but in the case of Alyssa Bustamante, it was more than just typical teenage angst driving her to kill her 9-year-old neighbor.
Bustamante came from troubled beginnings. Her parents both struggled with addiction and substance abuse issues, eventually leading to Bustamante being removed from their custody and placed in the care of her grandmother. At first things seemed to be going well. Alyssa excelled at academics and was all-around a bright young girl, but in spite of her ability to excel, she still had a lot of mental anguish stemming from her difficult upbringing.
At just 13-years-old, Alyssa attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of medication. When she failed, the hospital ordered her to attend therapy sessions. Though she was regularly consulting with several psychologists, the sessions did little to help. Before long Alyssa was cutting herself.
Though typically people who engage in self-harm aren’t looking to hurt anyone and often describe the behavior as a release for the emotional pain they feel inside, for Bustamante this “release” wasn’t enough. Secretly, Alyssa did want to hurt herself, but more than wanting to hurt herself, she wanted to hurt others.
She began confiding in some of her friends that she had always wondered what it would be like to kill someone and fantasized about hurting people. Doctors became increasingly more concerned with Alyssa’s behavior and began talking with her grandmother about having Alyssa committed to a psychiatric hospital just weeks before she would commit the unspeakable.
On October 17th 2009, Bustamante’s desire to kill became too much to bare. She dug two graves in a wooded area near her grandmother’s home and then waited to find an easy target. Four days later she would spot 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten walking home from a friend’s house.
Bustamante grabbed Elizabeth, beat her, strangled her, slit her throat, and stabbed her multiple times before throwing her into one of the graves she had dug. As Elizabeth’s mother was reporting the little girl as missing, Bustamante was already back home writing of the sheer exhilaration she felt from the ordeal in her diary.
“I just fucking 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.”
For two days and nights hundreds of police officers and volunteers from Cole County searched for the missing 9-year-old. She may still be missing if a letter hadn’t pegged Alyssa Bustamante as a suspect.
Police went to question Bustamante and she immediately confessed to the brutal slaying. She then led investigators to where she had hidden the mutilated body of little Elizabeth Olten.
Bustamante was placed under arrest and charged with first-degree murder. During a preliminary hearing a judge determined that 15-year-old Bustamante would be charged as an adult. While awaiting trial she began cutting herself with her own fingernails and was placed under suicide watch. Her lawyer was forced to file a motion to have Bustamante committed to an institution until she was psychologically equipped to handle the trial.
On February 8, 2012, Bustamante was found guilty of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. She was ordered to serve life in prison, with the possibility of parole in 2047.