Alyssa Bustamante accepts plea deal
Tue, 10 Jan 2012 02:50:00 GMT —
Update: 9:30 a.m. Jan. 10:
Alyssa Bustamante will not have a jury trial in a few weeks, like previously scheduled.
Tuesday morning Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce accepted Alyssa Bustamante's withdrawal of a not guilty plea to 1st degree murder. Bustamante then pleaded guilty to an amended charge of 2nd degree murder and armed criminal action.
Judge Joyce scheduled Bustamante's sentencing for February 6. The sentencing is expected to last two days while attorneys present evidence of what they believe Bustamante's sentencing should include. There will be additional testimony at the sentencing hearing. Defense attorneys said they will provide psychiatric and mental health background information. Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson said he expects to call 6 witnesses at the sentencing hearing.
Judge Joyce asked Bustamante is she understood what it meant for her to give up her rights to a jury trial. Bustamante said she understood.
Judge Joyce made clear that the guilty plea to lessened charges was not a plea bargain because no set sentencing terms have been made. The sentencing for a charge of 2nd degree murder can range from 10 years in prison to life in prison, with a possibility of parole.
There were about a dozen Elizabeth Olten supporters in the courtroom Tuesday morning. Many of them closed their eyes and cried when Bustamante told the court what she did to Elizabeth.
Bustamante said she strangled the nine-year-old and stabbed her in the chest. Judge Joyce asked Bustamante a series of questions including if she cut Elizabeth Olten's throat, to which Bustamante replied "yes" and if she knew what she was doing, to which Bustamante also replied in the affirmative. Bustamante told the court she strangled Elizabeth with her hands and used a knife to stab her chest.
Alyssa Bustamante's grandmother was in the courtroom for the hearing but did not want to make a public statement.
Bustmante's appearance had changed some since the last time she was in court. Her hair was longer and she looked like she had lost weight. Attorneys requested that her hands be unshackled during the hearing, which was approved. The entire hearing took about 15 minutes.
Bustamante was 15 at the time of the murder. She is 17 now. When asked how much schooling she has had; Bustamante told Judge Joyce she started the 10th grade, but never finished.
We'll have reaction and more on this story, our Facebook page, Twitter account and KRCG news at Noon, 5, 6 and 10.
Update: Monday 1/9/12 8:45pm:
The decision to offer a plea deal may have hinged on a ruling KRCG reported last June.
A confession given by Bustamante to a highway patrol investigator and a juvenile officer was blocked by the court.
Judge Pat Joyce ruled Juvenile Officer Tobie Meyer wrongly participated in a state highway patrol interview of then 15-year-old Bustamante.
The judge said Meyer "used deceptive tactics" while encouraging the teenager to tell the truth about the death of Elizabeth Olten.
KRCG has confirmed Alyssa Bustamante will be in court Tuesday for a plea hearing.
Bustamante, who is charged with first degree murder in the death of Elizabeth Olten, is scheduled for a jury trial on January 30. That may not happen after Tuesdayâ??s hearing.
Oltenâ??s family spokesperson said she and Elizabethâ??s mother were called by Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson to a meeting Monday morning.
Richardson said he was going to offer a plea deal to Bustamante. Elizabethâ??s family said they are very against the option, but that they had no choice in the matter. Later in the day they learned the defense attorney for Bustamante accepted the deal. The family spokesperson said Elizabethâ??s mother is devastated with the news.
The plea deal lowers the murder charge from 1st degree murder to 2nd degree murder. The armed criminal action charge remains. The charges carry a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 30 with the chance for parole.
Supporters of Elizabeth Olten will be in court Tuesday wearing shirts in support of the 9-year-old killed in 2009.
The plea deal is not a done deal. At the hearing Tuesday, Judge Patricia Joyce can accept or deny the plea.
KRCG will be at Tuesdayâ??s hearing. Stay with us on air and online for the latest developments.