Atty seeks psych care for Mo. teen murder suspect

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2009 6:17 PM

A teenager accused of killing a 9-year-old neighbor should be sent to a psychiatric hospital because she shows signs of severe depression and anxiety, her attorney said.

A judge had not approved the move Friday, though a draft order calling for a 96-hour stay at the Fulton State Hospital had been submitted by the public defender Thursday and was included in the case file.

Alyssa Bustamante, 15, has been held at the Morgan County jail after being indicted Wednesday as an adult on charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the Oct. 21 death of Elizabeth Olten.

Authorities say Bustamante strangled, stabbed and cut Elizbeth's throat because she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. They say Bustamante confessed and led them to Elizabeth's body two days later in a wooded area near their homes in St. Martins, just west of Jefferson City.

During a court hearing Wednesday, a juvenile justice officer testified that Bustamante had attempted suicide two years ago and had received both inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment for depression and cutting herself. Her juvenile defense attorney said Bustamante also had attempted to cut herself with her own fingernails while being held in juvenile custody after Elizabeth's death.

Public defender Jan King cited the previous suicide attempt in a court document Thursday while stating that Bustamante was "demonstrating signs of severe depression and anxiety" and had been under a suicide watch at the jail.

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Bustamante needs "immediate psychological treatment" to "assess her current mental state and to prevent the possibility that she may harm herself," King said in the motion requesting her transfer.

A not guilty plea was entered by a judge on Bustamante's behalf during her initial appearance Wednesday in adult court. If Bustamante is convicted of first-degree murder, she would face a sentence of life in prison without parole.