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Teen murder suspect appeals to Mo. Supreme Court

Alyssa Bustamante
Alyssa Bustamante

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – A Cole County teenage girl charged with murder is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to allow her to continue her education while she awaits trial.

Sixteen-year-old Alyssa Bustamante of St. Martins has been in jail for nearly a year since being charged with killing her 9-year-old neighbor, Elizabeth Olten.

A Cole County judge has denied Bustamante's request to enroll in a distance learning program, and an appeals court upheld that ruling last month. Attorney Janet Thompson is a public defender who's representing Bustamante before the High Court.

"As a child in the state of Missouri she's entitled, both through the constitution and the statutes, to a free public education," Thompson said. "Simply because she is in custody does not relieve the state of its obligation."

The Missouri Supreme Court has given the state until October 12th to respond to the appeal.

Thompson says Bustamante's right to a free education in Missouri will expire when she turns 17 in January.

"Time is of the essence, and that's why we are attempting to do this, to provide this young lady with access to an education," Thompson said.

Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce has denied Bustamante's request, and the Western Appeals Court in Kansas City upheld that decision last month.

Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson has not responded to a request to comment on the case.