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Suspect in Killing of Missouri Child Reportedly Is Teen Girl

The young suspect in the killing of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten of Missouri reportedly is a teenage girl, who has yet to be named publicly.

The 15-year-old suspect, who several media outlets say is a girl, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth, who vanished after leaving a friend's house last week and was found dead days later.

The suspect is being held as a juvenile until the judge decides next month whether the case in St. Martins, Mo., should be tried in adult court.

Funeral services for Elizabeth were held Wednesday. She was found dead Friday in a wooded area near her home in central Missouri.

An attorney for the suspect waived a scheduled detention hearing Wednesday that was to be closed to the public.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem did open the courtroom for arguments on whether people should be allowed to observe a Nov. 18 hearing to determine whether the teen should be tried as an adult. Beetem said he would announce his decision in writing.

Kurt Valentine, the teen's lawyer, said Elizabeth's death has put Jefferson City in "turmoil" and that opening the hearing could hamper the chances for a fair trial.

"There's been a lot of speculation, but now we will have in giant headlines my client's name," Valentine said. "There is no way in the world that could possibly be in the best interest of this particular juvenile."

Samantha Green, the attorney for the juvenile office, argued that the state Supreme Court has ruled that hearings can be open for juveniles accused of crimes that would be the most serious felonies if committed by an adult. She said court records and the exhibits to be presented could be closed or sealed to protect the suspect's privacy.

The 15-year-old was arrested Friday after leading authorities to Elizabeth's body just west of Jefferson City. Hundreds of people had searched the area last week after she disappeared.

The Cole County Sheriff's Department has said Elizabeth was well concealed, but have not said how she was believed to have encountered the teenager or where she was thought to have been killed. Sheriff Greg White said previously that the two lived in the same area and were acquainted but not related.

Valentine said the community needed time to absorb what happened. "In the local high school, friends of both sides have been getting into arguments and had fights over this case," Valentine said.

David Luther, a spokesman for Jefferson City Public Schools, said the district has no information or disciplinary reports about fights, but that officials would not know about every argument.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.