Cole County balks at education for teen murder suspect

JEFFERSON CITY | County officials in central Missouri argued Tuesday that they should not be required to pay to educate a 16-year-old girl awaiting trial for the alleged murder of a young neighbor.

Attorneys for Alyssa Bustamante have asked the Missouri Supreme Court to order officials in Cole County to pay for her education. Bustamante is charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the October 2009 death of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten near Jefferson City.

Prosecutors say Bustamante led law officers to the girl's body in a wooded area and told investigators that she wanted to know what it was like to kill someone.

In a written brief filed Tuesday with the Supreme Court, the Cole County Commission argued that it would be unconstitutional to order county officials to pay for Bustamante's schooling without state funding.

The county contends that jail inmates already have access to GED materials and that providing additional education could require jails to provide security for instructors, hire extra employees and set aside space for classes.

The Missouri attorney general office's argued earlier this week that Bustamante's education should continue. The office contends that all juveniles have a right to a free public education.

Earlier Tuesday, Bustamante's attorneys asked for prosecutors to return letters, cards and notes seized after Bustamante was taken into custody last October. Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson said investigators still are reviewing the items to determine if they contain evidence.

Bustamante is scheduled to go to trial next spring. A hearing has been set for December.