Bustamante pleads not guilty to Olten murder

The teenager charged with the murder of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten waived a formal arraignment and pled not guilty in her re-arraignment this morning.

Alyssa Bustamante, 15, was handed down charges by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce for first degree murder of Olten by strangulation and stabbing and armed criminal action in an earlier court appearance on Nov. 18.

By waiving the formal arraignment, the indictments were not formally handed down to Bustamante again. Her lawyer just entered the plea on her behalf.

Bustamante sat silently shackled in a green jumpsuit, often looking down, during the brief court appearance.

Family and friends of victim Elizabeth Olten sat on one side of the courtroom wearing pink, while a handful of Bustamante TMs friends gathered on the other side.

Bustamante TMs grandmother, who is her legal guardian, was not in the courtroom for today's proceedings.

Bustamante was certified as an adult at a certification hearing on Nov. 18. Just a few hours later, Bustamante stood in front of a Cole County judge to be arraigned. (Read the story) Because Bustamante had no lawyer present, the judge entered a not guilty plea on her behalf. (Read the story)

A status hearing was scheduled for Dec. 7 to see if Bustamante had a lawyer. However, the status hearing was cancelled Dec. 3 and a re-arraignment was scheduled for today because Bustamante now had a public defender. (Read the story)

Its routine for the court to only do the arraignment when the lawyer is available with his or her client, Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson said. "So, back on the 18th, what occurred actually was the judge read the charges to her, informed her of the charges, but did not conduct an official arraignment."

Richardson went on to explain why that is.

"On an arraignment, the courts want to ensure that the person's lawyer is there and available because that arraignment triggers certain time limitations to file certain motions, Richardson said.

Bustamante's attorney has already filed one of those motions; a request that she be transferred to the Fulton State Mental Hospital to be evaluated for a few days.

However, Judge Joyce has not ruled on that request and Bustamante's attorney did not ask the judge to take up the motion Tuesday.

Highway Patrol Criminal Investigator Sgt. David Rice said at the Nov. 18 certification hearing that, during the investigation, Bustamante said she wanted to know what it felt like. (Read the story)

Under Missouri law, when a suspect, under 16 years of age, commits a crime, the death penalty cannot be sought; the most that the suspect can get is life in prison without parole.

While Bustamante TMs case was still in juvenile court, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem was overseeing the case, Juvenile Court Lawyer Samantha Green was the prosecutor and Kurt Valentine was Bustamante TMs lawyer.

Bustamante is now represented by a Jan King. The prosecuting attorney, now, on the case is Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson.

Bustamante has a status hearing scheduled for Feb. 16, 2010.

Until then, Cole County Sheriff Greg White said she will remain behind bars at the Morgan County Jail. He said there is little space for female inmates at the Cole County Jail.