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Parole hearing set for Cole County woman who killed child as a teen

Alyssa Bustamante, right, will go in front of a Missouri Parole Board panel on July 8. She pleaded guilty to killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten in 2009.
Olten photo from Gary Bemboom, Bustamante from KMIZ
Alyssa Bustamante, right, will go in front of a Missouri Parole Board panel on July 8. She pleaded guilty to killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten in 2009.


A Cole County woman who killed a 9-year-old when she was a teenager will get a chance at a release from prison on Monday.

The Missouri Parole Board at a hearing will consider releasing Alyssa Bustamante from prison or continuing the life sentence she received when she was a teenager. She is serving the sentence at Chillicothe Correctional Center in northern Missouri.

Bustamante pleaded guilty in 2012 to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and armed criminal action for killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten in 2009. Investigators say Bustamante wrote that stabbing Olten excited her. Searchers found Olten's body buried in a shallow grave in St. Martins, where the two lived.

The plea deal at the time would have made Bustamante eligible for parole in 2044, but state lawmakers in 2021 made some juvenile offenders eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison for any sentence lasting 15 years or longer. Only juvenile offenders in prison for first-degree murder do not receive the earlier parole eligibility. One of the sponsors of the legislation told ABC 17 News in 2021 that the changes were not made to help cases like Bustamante's.

The six-person board will hold the hearing to decide whether Bustamante is eligible for release. The board's website says that the panel discusses and reviews how she has fared in prison, her conduct and programs completed while there and "any other issues the Board thinks is relevant." Victims and their families can attend the hearing and give a statement.

Olten's mother, Patty Preiss, told ABC 17 News in a written statement that she and her husband would attend the parole hearing to "beg the parole board not to vote to let her out." Preiss said she received an automated message from the state about the parole date setting on Mother's Day.

"I will relive my pain for them if it means it could make any difference at all," Preiss said. "There is very little I can do for my daughter now but show up."

Lawmakers have tried to exclude juvenile offenders convicted of second-degree murder, like Bustamante, from receiving the earlier parole eligibility. The chambers passed the measure in SB 754 this year, which Gov. Mike Parson has not yet acted upon. Preiss said she hoped the governor might still act on the bill before the hearing, which she said would nullify Bustamante's eligibility.

"I still hope maybe the governor can find time to sign the bill before Monday," Preiss wrote. "After all, this was a bill that they told me they wanted to call 'Elizabeth’s Law.'"

Anji Gandhi, Cole County's current senior assistant prosecuting attorney, worked on the Bustamante case as it proceeded to the eventual plea. She said the family believed when the plea was worked out that Bustamante would not be eligible for parole for decades.

"It is frustrating that the family will have to face Bustamante on Monday and re-open the gruesome facts of this case simply because the bill wasn't signed in time to make the hearing a nullity," Gandhi said.

The panel takes "approximately 8-12 weeks" to make a decision on parole eligibility. The panel may decide to grant an early release at a future date or be rescheduled for another hearing in one to five years.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.. shows for ABC 17 News and reports on the investigative stories.


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