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A Missouri teenager accused of killing a 9-year-old neighbor girl appeared in court Tuesday and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Alyssa Bustamante originally pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in the October 2009 slaying of Elizabeth Olten in a rural town just west of Jefferson City.

Bustamante, who was age 15 at the time of Elizabeth’s death, had been scheduled to be tried as an adult later this month.

In 2009, a state Highway Patrol officer testified that Bustamante confessed to strangling Elizabeth, cutting her throat and stabbing her because she wanted to know what it felt like. But last summer, a judge blocked part of Bustamante’s statement from being used at her trial.

Prosecutors said Bustamante plotted Elizabeth’s death, even digging two holes to be used as graves, then attended school for about a week while waiting for the right time to kill. They said Bustamante strangled Elizabeth without provocation, cut the girl’s throat and stabbed her.

At a November 2009 hearing, Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. David Rice testified that she confessed to the slaying and led authorities to Elizabeth’s body. Rice testified that Bustamante
said “she wanted to know what it felt like” to kill someone.

In June, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce blocked prosecutors from using part of the statement to police in her murder trial. Joyce ruled that a juvenile officer wrongly participated in the interview and “used deceptive tactics” during the questioning.

Hundreds of volunteers searched for two days for Elizabeth before her body was found.

Juvenile justice officials testified that Bustamante had attempted to commit suicide in 2007 and had been receiving mental health treatment for depression and cutting herself.