JEFFERSON CITY - Alyssa Bustamante received a sentence of life in prison Wednesday for second-degree murder and 30 years for armed criminal action in the murder of nine-year-old Elizabeth Olten on Oct. 21, 2009.
When the judge delivered the statement, Bustamante spoke in court for the first time--directly to the Olten family.
She said, "I just want you guys to know that I really am sorry for everything. I know that words can never be enough, and they can never adequately describe how horrible I feel for all of this. I'm so sorry. If I could give my life to give her back, I would."
Olten's mother Patty Preiss, seated between her son Anthony and daughter Stephanie, stared with apparent anger at Bustamante as she spoke these words.
As confirmed by Bustamante's attorneys, she must serve 85 percent of her second-degree murder sentence before she is eligible for parole, but could receive two years for time already served at the Cole County jail. That means she would have to serve 85% of a 28-year sentence and three years minimum for the 30-year armed criminal action sentence. Essentially, Bustamante could be eligible for parole in less than 30 years.
She will serve the second-degree murder sentence and the armed criminal action sentence consecutively.
Both defense attorneys said in a press conference after the hearing that the sentence was "harsh" and emphasized that she is severly mentally ill. They said her depression coupled with her age attributed to her violence and the eventual homicide. Attorneys did say Judge Patricia Joyce gave a fair sentencing hearing.
According to defense attorney Donald Catlett in a previous interview with KOMU 8 News, the state immediately will gain custody of Bustamante and transfer her from the Cole County Jail to a high-security women's correctional facility in Vandalia or Chillicothe. Cole County Sheriff Greg White confirmed Bustamante will leave the jail "as soon as the paperwork is done"--around noon, he speculated. She initially will go to Vandalia for diagnostic testing.
Leaving the courthouse, Bustamante did not appear to express any emotion.
Catlett said as of now, he does not know whether Bustamante will receive psychological treatment while in prison.
This sentence comes after two nine-hour days of testimony from witnesses on both sides of the case--some of whom said Bustamante was a cold-blooded killer who knew what she was doing when she murdered Olten. Others testified Bustamante had severe depression that worsened as she received inadequate treatment and continued to suffer from the adverse effects of her Prozac prescription.
Bustamante has 180 days to file an appeal under pro se motions for ineffective assistance of council to the District Attorneys Council, but her attorneys would not speculate whether she would do so.
Prosecuting attorney Mark Richardson will speak to the media at 1:30 this afternoon.
KOMU 8 News will provide further updates throughout the day and have live coverage at scheduled newscasts.
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(Sketches courtsey of Gary Castor)