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Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Mentally Ill Patient

In October of 2009, a tragic murder struck the town of St. Martins, Missouri. The victim, 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten, had been strangled and stabbed before she was buried in a wooded area behind her own home. It didn't take police very long to narrow down their suspect list to one 15-year-old girl named Alyssa Bustamante, however, as she had already indicated to the staff members of Pathways Behavioral Healthcare-a mental health clinic that she attended-that she wanted to harm the young girl. Her trial took place in February of the following year, where she admitted in open court that she had, in fact, murdered Elizabeth. The prosecution even admitted one of her journal entries into evidence, showing that she had described the incident as an "amazing experience." For this reason, she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Even in the wake of Bustamante's conviction, however, the victim's mother is still not satisfied. As such, she has decided to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against all of the parties that she holds negligently responsible for her daughter's death-including Alyssa Bustamante, Pathways Behavior Healthcare and two of the clinic's employees. She is pursuing monetary damages for the pain and suffering that she has been forced to endure, as well as punitive damages, in the hope that the same mistakes will not be made by Pathways Behavioral Healthcare in the future. According to the lawsuit, the mental health clinic's employees "were aware of the same violent propensities of Bustamante, as well as the specific, identifiable threats to harm Olten," and thus should have been able to prevent her from carrying out such gruesome actions against the victim. The defendants have since denied these allegations, claiming that they only thought that she could have been a danger to herself.

The victim's mother still believes that the clinic should have taken measures to detain the mentally ill patient, however, and is continuing to move forward with her lawsuit. She was previously awarded $400,000 in the judgment of a separate wrongful death suit that was filed against Bustamante's grandparents, who were her legal guardian at the time of the attack, but she has still decided to take action against the mental healthcare provider that she believes could have prevented her daughter's murder. If you have been forced to suffer through the loss of a loved one under similarly negligent circumstances, you should not hesitate to take the appropriate legal action, as well. Although monetary compensation cannot bring back your loved one, it is a viable way to obtain justice for their untimely death. For this reason, we urge you to consult with a knowledgeable lawyer from our firm to review your case immediately.

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