AN AMERICAN teenager has admitted strangling her nine-year-old neighbour with her bare hands, stabbing her in the chest and cutting her throat with a knife, because she wanted to know how it felt to kill.
Alyssa Bustamante was just 15 when she committed the horrendous crime in rural Missouri.
She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the October 21, 2009, killing of Elizabeth Olten in St Martins, a rural town just west of Jefferson City, Missouri.
Bustamante looked down at the hearing as Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce read out the amended charges and asked her if she understood she was giving up her right to a trial. She replied, "yes''.
Asked by the judge to describe her actions Bustamante said: "I strangled her and stabbed her in the chest.''
"Did you cut her throat too?'' the judge asked.
"Yes," Bustamante replied.
Bustamante, who is to turn 18 on January 28, lived a few doors away from Elizabeth.
She told the judge on Tuesday that she knew what she was doing when she strangled Elizabeth with her hands and used a knife to attack her.
Elizabeth's mother Patty Preiss who was in court, took a deep breath and dabbed her eyes with a tissue as she listened to the chilling testimony. She made no comment to media afterwards.
Bustamante, who will be sentenced on February 6, would have faced life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.
However, her guilty plea led to a reduced murder charge and she faces between 10 and 30 years in prison for second-degree murder.
Bustamante's lawyer, Charlie Moreland, said she decided to plead guilty because "she wanted to take responsibility for it''.
Bustamante's grandmother, who had been her legal guardian, left the courthouse without commenting to reporters.
The court was told in a November 2009 hearing that Bustamante had attempted to commit suicide at age 13 after receiving mental health treatment for depression and cutting herself.
Prosecutors said Bustamante had plotted Elizabeth's death, even digging two holes to be used as graves, then attending school for about a week while waiting for the right time to kill.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant David Rice testified that the teenager confessed to the slaying and led authorities to Elizabeth's body. Rice said Bustamante told him "she wanted to know what it felt like'' to kill someone.