Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce ruled on one of three motions filed today in the Alyssa Bustamante hearing.
Bustamante, 16, is accused of strangling and stabbing to death 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten of rural St. Martins, outside Jefferson City.
Bustamante was not present at Wednesday’s hearing, but Judge Joyce granted the defense attorneys’ request that Bustamante be allowed to wear street clothes and non-visible restraints when she does appear in court, instead of a jail uniform and shackles.
Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson asked the judge to deny the motion and instead forbid any video or photos be taken of her in restraints, but the judge sided with the defense.
The defense also asked that Bustamante be allowed, per her constitutional right in Missouri, to continue her high school education. Judge Joyce asked for precedent to review in the matter, and the defense provided a handful of cases that were taken up in either other states and in federal court. The problem, both agree, is the “uniqueness” of this case. All other similar cases involve males only, never a female.
Prosecutor Richardson opposed the motion, again stating that the defendent should not be given any special treatment. He said the Cole County Sheriff was providing everything he’s supposed to by law, and that doesn’t include a high-school eduation.
Bustamante’s attorneys are asking that she be allowed to finish her high school classes through the University of Missouri, a venue many have called an outcry, citing the high cost of such classes being billed to county taxpayers.
Joyce said she’d review the previous court rulings on the topic and hand down a decision later.
Another motion Joyce wouldn’t make a quick ruling on was one filed by the defense to make their research in the case and witness list a secret from the prosecution.
In final business, Joyce asked when the case might be ready for trial. Defense lawyers said not this calendar year. Another status hearing was set for July 27, if needed.
Outside the courthouse, Olten’s friends and family, dressed in pink, held signs with her picture bearing captions such as “She had dreams too,” “What about my rights?” and “Defend me, not my murderer.”
A family spokeswoman issued the following statement to the press after the hearing concluded:
First I would like to thank you all for taking the time to be here. Let me introduce myself. I am Pam Cafourek, I am the designated spokesperson for Elizabeth’s family. Elizabeth’s family would like to thank you for your help and coverage when Elizabeth went missing.
Elizabeth’s family will be maintaining a “No Comment” status until the trial and sentencing of Elizabeth’s murderer is over. I ask that you please respect Elizabeth’s family’s wishes. As you all can imagine, this is a very hard time for Elizabeth’s family. She is missed tremendously every day.
Elizabeth’s family would like to take this time to thank all of the volunteers and the people who have sent cards and all for the prayers that have been said for Elizabeth and her family. The outpouring support from the community has been and will always be appreciated.
I know you have asked the family to speak out on Elizabeth’s behalf and rest assured, when the trial is over and her murderer is convicted, Elizabeth’s family will speak loud and clear to you. Elizabeth will not be forgotten.