JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – An out-of-town jury will hear the murder trial of a central Missouri teenager accused of slaying a 9-year-old neighbor girl because she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.
A judge decided Tuesday to select a jury from outside of Cole County as an alternative to a request by Alyssa Bustamante's attorneys to move the trial elsewhere.
Bustamante, who was 15 at the time of the crime, is charged as an adult with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the Oct. 21 slaying of Elizabeth Olten. She has pleaded not guilty.
Authorities say Bustamante plotted Elizabeth's death — digging two holes several days in advance — then strangled her without provocation, cut the girl's throat and stabbed her. They say Bustamante confessed in a police interview to slaying Elizabeth because she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.
Hundreds of volunteers helped during a two-day search for the missing fourth-grader. Authorities say Bustamante ultimately led them to Elizabeth's body, which was concealed in a wooded area near the girls' homes just west of Jefferson City.
Bustamante's attorneys asked in December that her trial be moved because local residents "are so prejudiced against the defendant that a fair trial cannot be had in this county."
Prosecutor Mark Richardson objected Tuesday to moving the trial and suggested the alternative of bringing in jurors from elsewhere. Richardson said he expects to call a large number of witnesses and said it would be burdensome on Elizabeth's family — some of whom were in court Tuesday — to force them to travel for the trial.
Bustamante's attorneys agreed to using an out-of-town jury. Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce set a March 8 hearing to decide from which county the jurors will be selected.
There is no date scheduled yet for Bustamante's trial. She is being held in jail without bond and did not appear in court for Tuesday's brief hearing.
Defense attorney Donald Catlett said he still is waiting to receive copies of police reports and other evidence needed for a trial.