Mom Sues Mental Health Provider for the Wrongful Death of her Daughter

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In Jefferson City, the mother of a 9-year-old girl is suing a mental health clinic for the wrongful death of her daughter that was killed by a teenagers violent behavior.

Patricia Preiss filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Pathways Behavioral Healthcare, two employees and 18-year-old Alyssa Bustamante, who is convicted for the murder of her daughter, Elizabeth Olten. Alyssa Bustamante was only 15 years old when she killed Elizabeth in October 2009. Alyssa was sentenced that February for life in prison with the chance of parole after pleading guilty for the murder of Elizabeth.

According to the lawsuit, employees of Pathways Behavioral Clinic knew of Bustamante’s violent behavior and threats. Jefferson City News-Tribune reported that the teenager should have been detained. The lawsuit seeks for “fair and just expenses” for Elizabeth’s death, plus monetary damages for her pain and suffering.

At the time of Bustamante’s sentencing hearing in February, Cole County prosecutors and Bustamante’s public defenders put forth evidence that Bustamante had cut herself on numerous occasions and had been hospitalized at the Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center in Columbia after a suicide attempt in 2007. Alyssa Bustamante became a Pathways client after being released from the hospital.

In court, Bustamante confessed that she strangled Elizabeth, stabbed her and slit her throat. She then buried Elizabeth in a wooden area behind their homes. In the hearing, prosecutors mentioned a journal entry written by Bustamante on the night of the murder as she described the experience to be “ahmazing.” Then Bustamante apologized to the court for her actions.

The lawsuit made by Preiss alleges that Bustamante implied to Pathways employees that she wanted to harm Elizabeth.

Pathway’s employees “were aware of the same violent propensities of Bustamante, as well as the specific identifiable threats to harm Olten,” the lawsuit says. But “none of these defendants took actions to detain Bustamante” and “none warned Olten or Preiss of the specific threat on Olten, nor did they take any action that might have prevented Bustamante from harming Olten.”

Pathways counselor Ron WIlson, defendant, testified during Bustamante’s sentencing hearing that Alyssa did not present a threat to Elizabeth but only to herself.

The lawsuit was filed on October 18th and assigned to Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce, who also presided over Bustamante’s sentencing hearing.

Preiss previously filed a separate wrongful death lawsuit against Karen and Gary Brooke, Bustamante’s grandparents and legal guardians during the time of the Elizabeth’s murder. St. Louis County Circuit Judge Gloria Reno ordered a $400,000 judgment in the case, after the October 3rd hearing.

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