The Brutal Murder Of Elizabeth Olten, The Nine-Year-Old Killed In Cold Blood By Her Teenage Neighbor

Published January 22, 2024
Updated January 24, 2024

Elizabeth Olten knew and trusted 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante — but her "friend" turned out to be a thrill killer who had horrific plans for her.

On October 21, 2009, 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante lured her neighbor, nine-year-old Elizabeth Olten, into the woods near their homes in St. Martins, Missouri. Alyssa claimed that she had a “surprise” waiting for Elizabeth in the forest. Instead, Alyssa strangled the young girl, slit her throat, and stabbed her in the chest eight times, killing her.

Two days later, Elizabeth’s body was found in a shallow grave near Alyssa’s home — and Alyssa was the one who led the police to it. As it was later revealed, Alyssa had attracted suspicion shortly after Elizabeth was reported missing. Alyssa was one of the last people to see Elizabeth alive, and the authorities had a feeling that Alyssa was hiding something.

It turned out to be more horrific than anyone could’ve imagined: Not only had Alyssa murdered Elizabeth, but she had done it simply for the thrill of it. As she admitted to the cops, “she wanted to know what it felt like” to kill.

The Tragically Short Life Of Elizabeth Olten

Elizabeth Olten

Find A GraveElizabeth Olten’s promising life was cut brutally short by Alyssa Bustamante.

Elizabeth Olten was born on December 15, 1999, in Jefferson City, Missouri. The daughter of Patricia “Patty” Carwile Preiss and Dale Olten Sr., and the youngest of five siblings, Elizabeth had a normal, happy childhood.

According to Elizabeth’s loved ones, the young girl loved dogs, dressing up, and baking cookies. She also enjoyed watching the TV show Hannah Montana and listening to Taylor Swift’s music. When she wasn’t at school or with her family, she could usually be found playing with her friends.

These friends included 15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante and her younger siblings, who lived in the same neighborhood as Elizabeth in St. Martins, Missouri. On the evening of October 21, 2009, Alyssa’s six-year-old sister Emma rang the doorbell at Elizabeth’s house, asking if Elizabeth could come over and play with her. Elizabeth’s mother agreed to the playdate only on the condition that her daughter would be back home by 6 p.m.

Tragically, she would never see her alive again.

Shortly after Emma picked up Elizabeth, Alyssa lured Elizabeth into a wooded area near their homes, claiming that she had a “surprise.” Once they were in a remote location, Alyssa strangled Elizabeth, slit her throat, and stabbed her. Alyssa then dumped Elizabeth’s body into a shallow grave nearby, which she had dug ahead of time before the murder.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s family began to worry when she didn’t return home for dinner. According to KOMU 8, Elizabeth’s 13-year-old brother Anthony went to search for her, but he only found Alyssa and Emma. Chillingly, he later said that he overheard Alyssa warning Emma: “Don’t tell anyone.”

Inside The Desperate Search For Elizabeth Olten

Elizabeth Olten And A Baby

YouTubeElizabeth Olten was considered missing for about two days until her body was found.

By the time it got dark out, Elizabeth Olten’s family knew that something was wrong. The nine-year-old was known to be afraid of the dark, and she was never outside so late. Most troubling, she was no longer with Emma.

Elizabeth Olten’s mother, Patty Preiss, quickly called the police to report her daughter missing. When the authorities learned that Elizabeth had a cell phone on her when she disappeared, they contacted the provider, AT&T, for an emergency “ping” that would give an estimated location of the phone.

According to KRCG, the ping placed the phone deep into the woods near Elizabeth’s neighborhood. In the meantime, hundreds of local people in the community showed up to help police search for the missing girl.

FBI agents also arrived, leading many to believe that Elizabeth had been abducted by a local sex offender or a predator passing through the town.

But then, authorities interviewed six-year-old Emma, who they believed was the last person to see Elizabeth before she disappeared. While speaking with Emma, however, they learned that Emma’s teenage sister Alyssa had joined the girls while they were playing. From there, the police quickly began to unravel the mystery of what had happened to the nine-year-old.

Alyssa Bustamante’s Horrific Confession

Alyssa Bustamante

Alyssa Bustamante/FacebookMost who knew Alyssa Bustamante thought she was a normal teen, but she had a dark side that she hinted at online.

Investigators could tell right away that something was off when they met Alyssa Bustamante. According to Crime and Investigation UK, the authorities asked her about a shallow, empty hole they found in the woods near her home, and Alyssa admitted to digging it, claiming she did it “for fun.”

Her behavior was suspicious enough for the FBI to obtain a warrant to search her family home, where she lived with her younger siblings and her grandparents (because her mother had long struggled with substance abuse and her father was serving time in prison for assault). Before long, investigators learned about Alyssa’s disturbing secret life.

Not only was her bedroom full of troubling drawings and writings, but her social media accounts revealed a dark persona that reveled in posting shocking selfies and railing against authority. Chillingly, on MySpace and YouTube, she included “killing people” and “cutting” in her list of hobbies.

Perhaps most damning was her physical diary, which included an entry from the day of Elizabeth Olten’s disappearance. The entry was scribbled out with ink, but investigators uncovered what it said: “I just f**king 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.”

As the evidence against Alyssa quickly piled up, it didn’t take long for her to confess to committing the crime. Just two days after Elizabeth’s disappearance, Alyssa led police to the girl’s grave in the woods.

Many locals were shocked by the news that an innocent young girl had been so viciously killed by a teenager who was supposedly a trusted friend. And they were even more horrified when they learned the reason why Alyssa killed Elizabeth. “Ultimately, she stated she wanted to know what it felt like,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. David Rice said after Alyssa’s arrest.

What Happened To Alyssa Bustamante After She Was Arrested?

Alyssa Bustamante And Elizabeth Olten

Personal PhotosAlyssa Bustamante was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Elizabeth Olten — with the possibility of parole.

Though Alyssa Bustamante was 15 years old when she killed Elizabeth Olten, she was ultimately tried as an adult. In 2012, the then-17-year-old pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Later that same year, after she turned 18, she was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the murder charge, according to CBS News. She was sentenced to an additional 30 years for the other charge.

Elizabeth’s mother, Patty Preiss, was not satisfied with the sentence. According to Preiss, the D.A. made a plea deal with Alyssa because he feared that a jury would allow Alyssa to walk free “like Casey Anthony.”

At the sentencing, Preiss made her feelings about Alyssa abundantly clear. She said: “I will just say that I hate her. I hate everything about her. What I hate most of all is what everyone say about her age. The only thing her age makes is an evil monster… Eight times she stabbed my child. In her own words: ‘it was amazing and enjoyable.’ She threw her in a hole and covered her in dirt like she was nothing. But she was something to me.”

Preiss says the last memory she has of Elizabeth is that of “a happy little girl.” Tragically, that girl was robbed of a future with her family and of living a full life. But Preiss and Elizabeth’s other loved ones want to make sure that her memory is never forgotten — and that her killer stays behind bars.

Based on how the law is currently written, Bustamante could be eligible for parole on the murder charge as early as 2027. But even if she got parole that year, she would still need to serve 30 years for the armed criminal action charge, making her current earliest possible release date in 2057.


After learning about the heartbreaking story of Elizabeth Olten, read about Skylar Neese, the 16-year-old who was murdered by her two best friends. Then, discover the chilling case of Mary Bell, a 10-year-old murderer.

Rivy Lyon
True crime expert Rivy Lyon holds a Bachelor's degree in criminology, psychology, and sociology. A former private investigator, she has also worked with CrimeStoppers, the Innocence Project, and disaster response agencies across the U.S. She transitioned into investigative journalism in 2020, focusing primarily on unsolved homicides and missing persons.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.