The Teen Thrill Killer
St. Martins, MO had that small town feel with just over 1,000 residents. One of those everyone knows everyone kind of towns. The type of community where no one had to be asked to help. They just showed up willing to do whatever was needed. Then on October 21, 2009 their strength was put to the test. It was a day that would rock that community to their core. Their small town would be forever changed.
Elizabeth Olten, was a 9 year old, 4th grader at the nearby Pioneer Trails Elementary. Elizabeth was full of life and loved by her entire community. She was a lover of music, and some of her favorites included Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift. She loved horses, playing with her friends, and especially enjoyed baking cookies and doing puzzles with her Mom. She also loved to play dress-up with her animals.
Alyssa Bustamante was a 15 year old, sophomore in high school, and a nearby neighbor of Elizabeth’s. She was described as a teenage goth and cutter. In 2002, Alyssa and her 3 younger siblings came to be in the custody of her grandmother. Her mother had abandoned them and her father was in jail. On Labor Day 2007, Alyssa attempted suicide at the beginning of her 8th grade year. She swallowed a large bottle of Tylenol, making hundreds of cuts on her arms, and carving the word “hate” on one of them. Alyssa also had a YouTube channel that has since been removed. She had “cutting” listed as one of her hobbies. Her channel contained a video of the enjoyment she got from causing pain to her younger brothers. Her social media accounts were overloaded with photos of her with “fake blood” and fingers pointed like a “gun.”
On October 16, 2009 Alyssa had dug two shallow graves in the nearby woods. Investigators speculated those graves were originally intended for her two younger brothers. Until another opportunity presented itself. October 21, 2009 Alyssa sent her younger sister, 6 year old Emma, to Elizabeth’s home. Alyssa convinced Emma to lure Elizabeth over for a play date. Around 5 pm, Emma showed up just a few houses down asking Elizabeth to come over to play. A very happy and excited Elizabeth begged and pleaded with her mom to let her go with Emma to play for a bit. Elizabeth’s mom gave in and told her “only for 1 hour then be home for dinner.” About 5:15 pm Elizabeth took off with Emma down the road. That was the last time her mom would see her sweet smiling face. At 6:15 pm Elizabeth was skipping down the street to go home for dinner. Alyssa interrupted her short trip home. Alyssa told Elizabeth she had a surprise for her. She then led little Elizabeth into the nearby woods, not far behind her home. Unbeknownst to her, Alyssa had a knife hidden in a backpack. Alyssa overpowered Elizabeth, slicing her throat as she tried resisting. Then she began strangling her to the point of unconsciousness. Lastly, she stabbed her repeatedly in the chest. Alyssa buried her in a shallow grave. Elizabeth’s parents began to panic a little after 6:15 pm resulting in a call to report their child missing at 7pm. Her parents knew she was shy and scared of the dark. There was no way she would willingly stay out after dark. The community showed up almost immediately and searches were quickly underway. That same night, after attacking Elizabeth, Alyssa attended a youth dance at her LDS church.
By the next day, search dogs and helicopters were in use. Law enforcement was contacting and questioning local sex offenders. The Sheriff’s office contacted AT&T to ping Elizabeth’s cell phone she had on her. The last location showed near Elizabeth’s home. Hundreds of volunteers searched on foot and the FBI was called in for assistance. October 23, 2009 the FBI seized a journal from Alyssa Bustamante. Alyssa led investigators to the location where Elizabeth’s body was buried. Initially, Alyssa calmly lied to investigators. Later, Alyssa allegedly confessed to the crime. Her only motive was stated as: “I wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.”
A journal entry written by Alyssa led to the discovery of Elizabeth’s murder. The journal entry read “I just [….] killed someone. I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them… it was ahmazing… it’s pretty enjoyable… I gotta go to church now… lol – October 21, 2009.”
The autopsy revealed in court that Elizabeth was strangled so hard it could have caused brain damage. She had throat slits indicative of torture and was stabbed eight times in the chest.
November 17, 2009, Alyssa pled not guilty when she was indicted on first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Over two years after the indictment, in January of 2012, Alyssa accepted a plea deal for second-degree murder and armed criminal action. She was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of conditional release with a consecutive sentence of 30 years for the armed criminal action charge. In March of 2014, Alyssa appealed her sentence and was subsequently denied. Alyssa was labeled the “Teen Thrill Killer.”