Deviant sexual cravings, deep-seated fury, bizarre delusions. These are some of the reasons behind the murders featured in Kids Who Kill: Evil Up Close. But perhaps the most shocking of all is the case of Alyssa Bustamante, a 15-year-old girl from Missouri who killed just for the thrill of it.
It was an ordinary, early evening in October 2009 when Elizabeth Olten, a nine-year-old girl in St Martins, Missouri, asked her mum for permission to go out and play with her friend Emma, a six-year-old who’d come knocking on the front door. After much excited pleading from the two girls, Elizabeth’s mum relented, telling her she could go out for an hour.
The hour came and went, and panic set in. Elizabeth’s family called the police and soon a monumental search was underway, with hundreds of local people searching the wood-shrouded region for traces of the missing girl. FBI agents were soon on the scene, and the natural and frightening assumption was Elizabeth had been snatched by a child molester. Check points were set up so police could interrogate drivers, while the registered sex offenders in the area were spoken to.
Attention soon turned back to six-year-old Emma, who’d called on Elizabeth that evening. She told the FBI that they had played for a while outside, before Elizabeth headed back home. But then a new detail emerged: Emma’s teenage half-sister, Alyssa, had apparently turned up to join the younger girls. As this revelation sank in, investigators found what looked like an empty, shallow grave in the woods close to Alyssa’s house. The teenager admitted she’d dug this strange hole, saying she’d done it for fun.
Alyssa’s strange demeanour and behaviour led the FBI to obtain a warrant to search her family home. What they found in her bedroom was disturbing beyond all expectation. The place was a dingy mess, the walls covered with ominous scribblings and drawings. Among them was the figure of a strange, faceless man, and lines like “I cut to see blood because I like it”. This was clearly no ordinary teenage bedroom, and Alyssa no ordinary teenager.
I just f****** killed someone
Investigators soon discovered that Alyssa’s violent father was serving a long prison sentence, while her drug-abusing mother had been in and out jail for various offences. Alyssa and her siblings were being raised by their grandparents, but – despite the relative comfort and stability they provided – Alyssa was clearly a troubled girl.
In 2007, a few years before Elizabeth’s disappearance, Alyssa had tried to commit suicide, and ended up spending 10 days in a psychiatric hospital. She was put on strong anti-depressants, and was prone to self-harming, scarring her wrists with a blade. (A YouTube video would later surface, showing Alyssa encouraging her brothers to touch an electrified fence, with the words “This is where it gets good… we get to see my brothers get hurt” flashing up on the screen.)
Alyssa’s diary, discovered by the investigators, detailed her destructive fantasies. She wrote of wanting to burn her grandparents’ house down. And then there was the final entry, written on the day of Elizabeth’s disappearance, which had been almost completely scribbled out. As expert analysts tried to use their technology to light up the original writing beneath the scribbled, inky mess, interrogators sat down with Alyssa and got her talking.
It wasn’t long before the 15-year-old cracked and revealed the horrific truth: she had led little Elizabeth into the woods, strangled her, stabbed her multiple times and then cut her throat. She’d then buried the girl and nonchalantly returned home to write these words in her diary – words which analysts would later confirm:
“I just f****** killed someone. I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they’re dead. I don’t know how to feel atm. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the “ohmygawd I can’t do this” feeling, it’s pretty enjoyable. I’m kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to church now… lol.”
Years would pass until Alyssa, by now aged 18, pleaded guilty in court to second-degree murder. Her lawyers offered mitigation, pointing out her unstable mental state, her history of self-harm, and the fact she was on powerful anti-depressants that, they argued, may have triggered violent impulses. On the other hand, prosecutors were damning, pointing out that Alyssa had planned the murder carefully, even sending her half-sister out to fetch her victim, and killing for the simple pleasure of it.
Alyssa herself expressed regret, saying “If I could give my life to get her back I would. I’m sorry.” The teenager who killed for kicks is now serving a life sentence, with a minimum term of 35 years.