Bustamante sentencing expected Wednesday morning
Originally published February 7, 2012 at 1:05 p.m., updated February 7, 2012 at 3:49 p.m.
UPDATED 6:25 P.M.
Saying she couldn’t listen to any more evidence, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce left the courtroom Tuesday night as Elizabeth Olten’s grandmother offered the judge one final piece of advice: “Don’t let her (Alyssa Bustamante) out of prison before Elizabeth gets out of her grave.”
After closing arguments in Bustamante’s sentencing hearing ran until just after 6 p.m. today, Joyce announced she would review the new evidence and information presented today, then announce her sentence at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Bustamante, now 18, was 15 1/2 when she killed Olten, 9, on Oct. 21, 2009. She pleaded guilty on Jan. 10 to second-degree murder and armed criminal action charges.
She must get at least a 10-year sentence on the murder conviction, but both charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, with the possibility of parole.
Bustamante’s public defenders recommended that Joyce be guided by the Sentencing Advisory Report, prepared by the state Probation and Parole Board.
But, because that’s a closed record, they could not explain what that recommendation is.
After noting that Elizabeth Olten’s life expectancy was 80 years, Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson urged Joyce to sentence Bustamante to life in prison on the second-degree murder plea — and to 71 years on the armed criminal action charge, “for the 71 years of life she was robbed of.”
More coverage in Wednesday's edition of the News Tribune.
POSTED AT NOON TUESDAY
A Boston psychiatrist told Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce this morning that no scientific study has shown a connection between the anti-depressant drug Prozac and an increased incidents of suicides or violence, including murder.
“That’s not just my opinion,” Dr. Anthony Rothschild told Joyce. “That’s the (medical) field’s opinion and the FDA’s (federal Food and Drug Administration) opinion.”
Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson called Rothschild, director of the University of Massachusetts Depression Center, to counteract Monday’s testimony from Houston, Texas, psychiatrist Edwin Johnstone that an increase in the dosage of Alyssa Bustamante’s Prozac prescription may have led her to strangle Elizabeth Olten and stab her eight times.
“There’s no reliable evidence that Prozac causes people to commit murder,” said Rothschild, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist. “It actually causes a decrease in those kinds of symptoms.”
Bustamante, now 18, was 15 1/2 when she killed Olten, 9, on Oct. 21, 2009. She pleaded guilty on Jan. 10 to second-degree murder and armed criminal action charges, and Joyce now is getting information from both prosecution and defense attorneys to help her impose the teen’s final prison sentence.
Bustamante must get at least a 10-year sentence on the murder conviction, but both charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, with the possibility of parole.
Two officials with the Jefferson City Public School District also were called to the stand this morning.
Lisa Bleich, a counselor at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, testified Alyssa did not have any problems until August 2007.
That’s when she was told by a parent of another student at the school that Alyssa was a cutter.
Bleich said she called Alyssa in and saw on her arms where she had cut herself several times. She said she then contacted Alyssa’s grandmother, Karen Brooke, who talked about getting her outside counseling.
Eventually, officials from Pathways Community Behavioral Healthcare were brought in and had sessions with Alyssa at the school.
Also testifying was Alyssa Neitzert, a registered nurse with certification in forensics. She is employed at University Hospital in Columbia.
She was called by Alyssa’s defense to do a body exam of Alyssa at the Cole County Jail in November 2011 to find evidence of self-mutilation.
Neitzert said she found more than 300 such marks on Alyssa’s body, an amount she said she had never seen before.
All the wounds were healed and some were difficult to see because Alyssa is fair-skinned.