Skip to Content

State rep says proposed parole changes not meant for Cole County killer

mo house debate
Missouri lawmakers in the House of Representatives debate bills on May 14, 2021.


A Missouri state representative said changes he suggested to the state's parole eligibility were not intended to apply to a Cole County woman serving a life sentence for murder.

Rep. Mark Sharp, D-Kansas City, told ABC 17 News he did not support an early release for Alyssa Bustamante, the St. Martins woman that killed 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten when she was 15. Sharp said he did not know about the case until ABC 17 News sent him a petition from an advocacy group calling for Gov. Mike Parson to veto the bill based on a provision he brought to the House floor.

Sharp successfully added a provision to Senate Bill 26 this year that would make people eligible for a parole hearing after serving 15 years of any sentence that comes with a punishment of 15 years or greater. That wouldn't apply to people convicted of first-degree murder or capital murder.

Sharp said the change was inspired to help people like Bobby Bostic, a St. Louis man convicted of robbery and other crimes when he was 16. A judge sentenced him to 241 years in prison, a sentence the American Civil Liberties Union has called "unjust and unconstitutional." Sharp said he would stand with Olten's family against any possible early release for Bustamante, if the parole board gave her a hearing.

"I'm not sure the parole board is very anxious to set a parole hearing for her and to give her that leniency because she didn't give that 9-year-old girl that leniency," Sharp said.

An advocacy group for victims of those killed by juveniles called on Gov. Mike Parson to veto the bill. The National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murder said Bustamante might qualify for parole as early as 2024 under the change, and that a parole hearing would cause the Olten family the pain of reliving the murder.

Sharp said he was against Bustamante receiving any sort of early release. He called her case "unique," pointing out that prosecutors originally charged her with first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder.

"I'm allowing the parole board and hoping that they can do their due diligence and make sure the folks that are over-sentenced and have a chance to be paroled, if they've been rehabilitated, and for those folks that aren't deserving, won't be," Sharp said.

NOVJM said it was glad Sharp was "understanding and supportive" of its concern. The groups' worry about the bill, though, extended beyond possible parole eligibility for people convicted of non-homicide crimes. Allowing parole hearings just for those convicted of crimes not related to killing could cause "much harm" to families of victims.

"Like Rep[.] Sharp, NOVJM is concerned with offenders being overcharged and over-sentenced to prison terms that are disproportionate when compared to their crimes," the group said. "However, we do not agree that the problem can be solved by mandating parole eligibility for all non-homicide offenders after only 15 years. Instead, one's sentence should be determined based on the specific facts regarding their crime."

SB 26 passed the legislature this year with bipartisan support both for and against it. Sharp actually voted against the entire bill this year, citing concerns with increased criminal charges against protestors. However, given the Republican majority behind the bill, Sharp said he tried to add "good language" to the bill to help people in prison given long sentences as children.

"The Missouri General Assembly, in a bipartisan effort, has really been on board to help individuals more along the lines of [Bostic] to try and reduce that sentencing," Sharp said. "And that was the intent behind it."

Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Gov. Parson, said the bill was in the "review process" with the governor and his team.

Article Topic Follows: Top Stories

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

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.


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content