Save for her occasional rebellion against authorities, Alyssa Bustamante seemed like a normal teenager. However, her online persona revealed Alyssa’s true self, a much darker girl.

A friend of Alyssa Bustamante said:

“She was just always so sweet and everybody loved her…she was just amazing!”

The revelation of Alyssa’s true persona may have come as a surprise to her family and friends, but Alyssa Bustamante’s virtual alter ego foretold what would be her most monstrous act; the killing of Elizabeth Olden, her nine-year-old neighbor.

Alyssa Bustamante’s Troubled Childhood

Her mother, Michelle Bustamante, had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, which led to charges and jail time, and her father, Caesar Bustamante, was serving jail time for assault.

As a result, she was raised by her grandparents, who took legal custody of her and her three younger siblings in California from 2002 to 2009 when she was arrested for killing Elizabeth.

To get away from their previous lives, Alyssa and her siblings were moved to a rural, ranch-like property in St. Martins, Missouri, just west of Jefferson City.

Alyssa was a normal kid by all appearances, and her grandparents provided a stable home where Alyssa’s parents could not.

Regardless of her parents’ incarceration, Alyssa became an A and B student in high school. Like every other kid, Alyssa would often write poems and joke around.

She routinely attended church at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where she participated in several youth activities.

However, in 2007 Alyssa started self-harming herself and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in St. Martins for 10 days. She was then placed on anti-depressants.

Despite the medications, Alyssa continued to inflict wounds on herself and often showed the scars on her wrists to her friends. One of her friends said:

“Well, she was obviously on the anti-depressants, we always would go upstairs and she’d be like, ‘Oh I need to take my medicine.’”

Online, Alyssa was an entirely different person. Her Twitter feed talked about her disdain for authority.

One of the tweets read:

“Bad decisions make great stories.”

On YouTube and MySpace, she listed her hobbies as “cutting and killing people.” She also posted a YouTube video where she tried to get two brothers to try to touch an electrified fence.

Then, on Oct. 21, 2009, Alyssa unleashed her darkest fantasies on her nine-year-old neighbor, Elizabeth.

The Murder Of Elizabeth Olden

Four houses down from the Bustamante family lived nine-year-old Elizabeth Olden, who often came over to play with Alyssa and her siblings.

On the night she was killed, Elizabeth’s mother says she requested to go over to Alyssa’s house to play at 5 p.m. on October 21, 2009.

By 6 p.m., when Elizabeth didn’t come home, her mom knew something was wrong, and unfortunately, this would be the last time Elizabeth’s mother saw her daughter alive.



A day after Elizabeth’s disappearance, FBI agents quizzed Alyssa and took her diary, which revealed a vastly more horrific person.

Although she blotted out the blue ink in her diary in an attempt to cover up the entry, investigators revealed the original writing in which Bustamante talks about the euphoria she felt after killing Elizabeth Olden. She wrote:

“I just f—— killed someone. I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they’re dead. I don’t know how to feel atm. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the “ohmygawd I can’t do this” feeling, it’s pretty enjoyable. I’m kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to church now… lol.”

Investigators also found a shallow hole behind Alyssa’s house that seemed to be in the shape of a grave.

The teenager told the FBI she just liked to dig holes. Later in the investigation, authorities found another shallow grave covered with leaves behind the Bustamante house. Elizabeth’s body was inside. With this evidence in hand, prosecutors arrested and charged Alyssa with first-degree murder.

“Before this, before all of this, she was a normal 15-year-old girl. This isn’t her. This was not the Alyssa that I knew.”

“Everyone’s spreading rumors and things are going on everywhere, but I think people are just trying to find an answer, trying to find some way to explain it. And basically just try to understand – but there is no explanation, really.”

The Trial

Alyssa confessed to killing Elizabeth in court. She revealed that she strangled Elizabeth before slitting her throat and stabbing her in the chest.

Afterward, she then buried Elizabeth’s body in the hand-dug, shallow grave behind their homes.

Defense attorneys pointed to Alyssa’s troubled childhood as a means to apply leniency in any sentence, but Bustamante was tried as an adult.

A few weeks before her first-degree murder trial in 2012, a little more than two years after the murder, Alyssa accepted a plea deal to the lesser charge of second-degree murder to avoid the death penalty.

As part of the plea deal, she may get out of jail in 30 years on parole. Alyssa Bustamante’s case took an interesting turn in 2014 after she got a new attorney.

Her new defense attorney sought a do-over because of a U.S. Supreme Court case, which invalidated mandatory life sentences for juveniles and first-degree murder cases.

At a court hearing in January 2014, the 20-year-old Bustamante testified that she wouldn’t have accepted the plea deal had she known about the possibility for the nation’s high court to wipe out mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder.

But one of her original attorneys, Charles Moreland, testified that they had talked to her about the issues pending before the Supreme Court. He said:

“Bustamante ‘stood a very strong risk of being found guilty’ by jurors of first-degree murder had she not pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.”

However, Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson denied the lawyer’s plea for a new sentence. According to him, Bustamante had committed “an adult-like crime” and received “an adult-like punishment,” which was appropriate.

He said:

“Just because that sentencing hearing went badly for her in terms of more years than maybe she expected, that’s not a reason for a judge to allow a defendant to withdraw their plea.”

The Aftermath

Elizabeth’s grieving mother, Patricia Preiss, felt as if the original sentence was still too light.

She called Alyssa a monster and said that she hated everything about her. She declared Alyssa “not human” during the sentencing.

Preiss sued the convicted murderer for damages in a wrongful death suit in October 2015, and she eventually settled for $5 million two years later.

Her original wrongful death lawsuit included the hospital where Alyssa had stayed; Pathways Behavioral Healthcare and two of its employees as defendants because she felt Elizabeth was murdered by Alyssa, who was under their care at that time.

She believed that the psych ward should have seen Alyssa’s violent tendencies coming and consequently taken preventative measures.

A judge threw out the lawsuit against Pathways, and Alyssa Bustamante will ultimately owe Patricia Preiss the $5 million-plus interest at 9 percent per year until the debt is paid.

Although Preiss was awarded $5 million for damages, the loss of one’s child cannot truly be compensated for.

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