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Mo. teen pleads guilty to killing 9-year-old girl

Alyssa Bustamante.
(St. Louis Public Radio file photo)
Alyssa Bustamante.

Last updated 1:49 p.m.

A Missouri teenager who told authorities that she strangled, cut and stabbed a 9-year-old neighbor because she wanted to know what it felt like has pleaded guilty in the girl's death.

Alyssa Bustamante pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Tuesday in the October 2009 killing of Elizabeth Olten in a rural town just west of Jefferson City.

A state Highway Patrol officer testified that Bustamante confessed to strangling Elizabeth, cutting her throat and stabbing her because she wanted to know how it felt. Authorities say Bustamante led them to the girl's body in the woods near her home.

Bustamante's guilty plea  included a chilling admission in court about how it happened.

Bustamante answered "yes" repeatedly Tuesday when asked if she understood that she was giving up her right to a trial. The judge then asked Bustamante to describe the killing.

Bustamante looked at the judge and said she stabbed young Elizabeth Olten in the chest.

The judge asked if Bustamante cut the girl's throat. Asked if she knew what she was doing, the teen said yes. She said she used a knife and strangled the victim with her hands.

At that, the victim's mother, sitting in court just a few feet away, took a deep breath and dabbed her eyes with tissues.

Bustamante was charged as an adult with first-degree murder and had been scheduled to be tried as an adult later this month.

Reaction from the victim's family

Olten's relatives are disappointed by a plea agreement that could allow her confessed killer to be released from prison someday.

An attorney for Olten's mother says the family does not believe justice was fully served Tuesday when Bustamante pleaded guilty to killing the girl in October 2009.

Bustamante originally had been charged with first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole. She pleaded guilty to an amended charge of second-degree murder, which is punishable by 10-to-30 years in prison or life with the possibility of parole. A sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 6.

Attorney Matt Diehr says Elizabeth's mother and other relatives plan to "continue to seek justice" by any legal means available.