A decision’s been handed down in Cole County Court that will suppress evidence in the murder case against Alyssa Bustamante, the teenager accused of killing 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten outside of Jefferson City.
That evidence could include an admission of guilt in the crime.
Judge Pat Joyce has sustained a motion by Bustamante’s lawyers that Juvenile Officer Tobie Meyer acted inappropriately during the questioning period immediately after Olten’s body was found. Bustamante allegedly showed detectives where the body was buried in a heavily wooded area.
The court order states that Meyer disregarded the legal requirement that she not participate in the questioning.
“Despite the custodial setting, statements made to Detective David Rice by the defendant could still have been admissible but for the actions of the juvenile officer,” the order states. “Ms. Meyer engaged actively in the questioning and made numbers statements to defendant despite the fact that she knew the defendant was the suspect in the murder of Elizabeth Olten.”
The court order goes on to say that “Meyer used deceptive tactics during the interrogation,” including telling Bustamante she was there as her advocate, likely misleading her “into believing that Ms. Meyer was there to look after her best interests when she encouraged defendant repeatedly to tell the truth.”
Meyer also reportedly told Bustamante that “the Juvenile Court’s only focus is ‘treatment’ thereby implying that the defendant would receive treatment for her criminal behavior instead of an adult criminal sentence.
Judge Joyce has ordered that all statements made after page 71, line 14, of the transcript of the video statement are inadmissible in court and are suppressed.
Cole County Sheriff Greg White tells the Missourinet that he believes any statements Bustamante told his detectives before the interrogation with Meyer would still be admissible in addition to whatever was said in the first 71 pages of the transcript, which he has not read.
“The function of a juvenile officer in a criminal interrogation is simply to protect the rights of the juvenile and to observe, as the court order reflects,” White says. “And I haven’t seen the totality of the video transcript, but what it indicates is that the juvenile officer was asking guilt seeking questions and that’s the venue of law enforcement, not juvenile authorities.”
White calls the development disappointing but says the judge certainly ruled appropriately.