Four Mid-Missouri teens are suspects in murder cases.
Alyssa Bustamante, 16, is charged with killing her young neighbor.
Jordan Harvey, 15, is charged with helping his parents kill a man and stuff him in a freezer.
Jordan TMs 17-year-old brother, Ethan, has also been arrested in the crime.
A 13-year-old boy from Kaiser, Mo. was committed into the juvenile system Wednesday after he admitted to killing his mother and step-father. ( Read more )
These rare situations cast new light on teenagers in the court system.
County jails across Mid-Missouri struggled to deal with young detainees especially when they have to share cells with adult.
Alyssa Bustamante: In jail since Oct. 23, 2009
It's been 13 months since Alyssa Bustamante was charged as an adult with murdering 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten. Since then, Bustamante has been at the Morgan County Jail, under the supervision of Jail Sergeant Cody Worthley. (Read more)
Once they're certified as an adult they get treated like any other adult we house here, Jail Sergeant Cody Worthley said. The only precaution we do, and we do this with anyone that comes in for the 1st time, we monitor them for a few days and make sure they get adjusted."
Alyssa is being held in a cell pod. It's similar to a dorm room with bunk beds for more than 20 other women all living together with no privacy.
They have phones in there, Worthley said. They have games, cards and checkers. They have a TV in there they can watch all day long."
Alyssa also has access to GED books, but a court battle is still going on whether she can take long distance learning courses to finish high school.
Alyssa usually stays in bed, with a blanket over her head said Worthley.
"I think 15, 16 is the youngest we've ever had, said Worthley. She's like any other inmate. They just sit there and do their stuff upstairs. And she does keep to herself. Until problems arise, then I'll get concerned about it. But as long as everyone is on their best behavior up there, then I have no concern for them."
Worthley said Alyssa has never caused a problem.
Psychologist Dr. Colin Duggan, who has worked with adolescents in the correctional system, said teens in adult jails is a delicate situation and it needs to be looked at case by case when dealing with a defendants' mental health.
Hypothetically, a child thrown into an environment like that could suffer consequences: not learning to deal with stress appropriately, learning how to contain their impulses, acting out violently, Duggan said.
Jordan Harvey: In jail since Dec. 24, 2009
Another Mid-Missouri teenager charged with murder is at the Audrain County Jail. Jordan Harvey, now 15, is charged with helping murder a hitchhiker his dad picked up.
Police said the family kept Ohio drifter, James McNeely at their home in Laddonia for two days, where he was beaten, suffocated with a plastic bag and strangled with wire. McNeely TMsbody was found in the freezer compartment of a tractor trailer. (Read More)
Jordan's 17-year-old brother, who also faces murder charges, is still in juvenile custody but could be moved to the county jail if he gets certified as an adult at his certification hearing, which is not scheduled yet. The boys' mother, father, and 20-year-old brother also face charges in this case.
Jordan also stays in pod type cell, but the sleeping quarters are kept separate. He is allowed in the common area for three hours a day. Jordan sometimes spends his time in the common area playing chess.
But he hasn't always had access to the game, for several week's Jordan spent time in a holding cell.
Jordan TMs father, Chester Harvey got concerned for his son TMs well-being and wrote a letter pleading for better treatment writing:
In this holding cell, Jordan cannot see. He is left in there for 23 and half hours a day with the light on bright that never goes out. This is extreme mental abuse on a 15-year-old boy."
When asked why Jordan was in isolation, the Audrain County jail captain said it was for boy's safety. The jail captain said the lights are left on so cameras can monitor the boy.
"Research shows that isolation could exasperate those symptoms; a lot of the problems they're already suffering from: worsening the depression, making the anxiety more unbearable," Duggan said.
The isolation for these teens could stretch on for months to come.
Alyssa TMs trial isn TMt scheduled to start for another six months.
Jordan TMs hasn't yet been scheduled.
In contrast to Alyssa and Jordan, the 13-year-old boy from Kaiser, Mo. will have a much different experience while in the juvenile justice system.
He will live in group homes with other young offenders.
The focus at the group homes will be on rehabilitation, with education and skills training, and an expected release back into society as an adult.
The group home setting was cited as part of the reason why Alyssa was certified as an adult; court authorities feared she could harm other youth.