Girl in stab­bing men­tally ill

Ver­dict reached in case tied to fic­tional In­ter­net de­mon

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - TODD RICH­MOND

WAUKESHA, Wis. — A Wis­con­sin girl who ad­mit­ted to par­tic­i­pat­ing in the stab­bing of a class­mate to please hor­ror char­ac­ter Slen­der Man will avoid prison after a jury de­ter­mined that she was men­tally ill at the time of the at­tack.

Anissa Weier trem­bled as the jury’s ver­dict late Fri­day was read after a week of tes­ti­mony and some 11 hours of de­lib­er­a­tions. She wasn’t avail­able after­ward, but her at­tor­ney said Weier was re­lieved and cried after the ver­dict.

“I’m very thank­ful to the ju­rors for tak­ing the time to look at what was re­ally go­ing on with her,” Maura McMa­hon said, her own eyes wet from cry­ing.

Weier and Mor­gan Geyser lured class­mate Pay­ton Leut­ner into the woods at a park in Waukesha, a Mil­wau­kee sub­urb, in 2014. Geyser stabbed Leut­ner 19 times while Weier urged her on, ac­cord­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors. A pass­ing bi­cy­clist found Leut­ner, who barely sur­vived her wounds. All three girls were 12 at the time.

Weier and Geyser told de­tec­tives they felt they had to kill Leut­ner to be­come Slen­der Man’s “prox­ies,” or ser­vants, and pro­tect their fam­i­lies from the de­mon’s wrath.

Weier, now 15, pleaded guilty to at­tempted sec­ond-de­gree in­ten­tional homi­cide in a deal with prose­cu­tors in Au­gust. But she claimed she was men­tally ill dur­ing the at­tack and was not re­spon­si­ble for her ac­tions, in a bid to be sent to a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion rather than prison. A plea agree­ment called for her to spend at least three years in a men­tal hospi­tal if judged men­tally ill, and 10 years in prison if not.

McMa­hon said she hopes the case re­veals that chil­dren may be deal­ing with men­tal health is­sues lost on adults who have be­come too busy with their own lives to pay at­ten­tion, and re­sources abound to help them.

“Life is bet­ter for chil­dren when adults around them are in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with each other,” she said.

Deputy District At­tor­ney Ted Szczu­pakiewicz de­clined to com­ment. Judge Michael Bohren or­dered a pre-com­mit­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port on Weier and said he would hold a hear­ing to de­cide how long to com­mit her after the re­port is com­pleted. He could sen­tence her more se­verely than the plea agree­ment calls for, in­clud­ing up to a 25-year com­mit­ment, the same as the max­i­mum prison time she could have re­ceived.

The jury’s ver­dict came after some 11 hours of de­lib­er­a­tions, and about an hour after it had ap­peared to reach a ver­dict in Weier’s fa­vor only to see it re­jected by Bohren.

Though that first ver­dict wasn’t read in court, de­fense at­tor­ney McMa­hon said 10 of 12 ju­rors — the min­i­mum re­quired by law — voted that Weier was men­tally ill. On a sec­ond ques­tion that ju­rors had to de­cide — whether she was crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble for her ac­tions — 10 ju­rors voted that she was not.

But it wasn’t the same 10 on both ques­tions, ac­cord­ing to McMa­hon. Bohren or­dered the jury to re­sume de­lib­er­a­tions.

McMa­hon said Weier’s un­hap­pi­ness stemmed from her par­ents’ di­vorce, and she latched onto Geyser.

To­gether they be­came ob­sessed with Slen­der Man, de­vel­op­ing a con­di­tion called shared delu­sional dis­or­der, McMa­hon said. Weier be­lieved Slen­der Man could read her mind as well as tele­port and would kill her or her fam­ily if she talked about him, she said.

Slen­der Man, a crea­ture of the In­ter­net, is a fic­tional para­nor­mal be­ing who lurks near forests and ab­sorbs, kills or car­ries off his vic­tims. In some ac­counts, he tar­gets chil­dren. Some ren­der­ings show him as a long-limbed, lean man in a black suit, with no face.

“This sounds crazy, be­cause it is,” McMa­hon said. “This was a real be­ing to this child, and she needed to pro­tect those around her. At 12 years old, she had no way to pro­tect her­self from [Slen­der Man] ex­cept for Mor­gan’s ad­vice and they swirled down into mad­ness to­gether.”

Szczu­pakiewicz, the pros­e­cu­tor, coun­tered dur­ing his clos­ing ar­gu­ments that the stab­bing was cal­cu­lated. He said the girls had planned the at­tack for at least four months. He asked ju­rors to con­sider why if the girls were so afraid of Slen­der Man they waited so long to at­tack Leut­ner.

He also pointed out that Weier told a de­tec­tive she wasn’t fright­ened of Slen­der Man un­til after the at­tack, when Geyser told her she had made a deal with the mon­ster that he would spare their fam­i­lies if they killed Leut­ner.

“It comes down to did she have to or did she want to?” Szczu­pakiewicz said. “It wasn’t kill or be killed. It was a choice, and she needs to be held crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble.”

Geyser has pleaded in­no­cent to one count of at­tempted first-de­gree in­ten­tional homi­cide by rea­son of men­tal disease or de­fect. Her trial is set to be­gin Oct. 9.

Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal-Sen­tinel/C.T. KRUGER

De­fense at­tor­ney Maura McMa­hon makes clos­ing ar­gu­ments in Waukesha, Wis., on Fri­day in the case of Anissa Weier, 15, who has ad­mit­ted to help­ing her friend at­tack their class­mate as a trib­ute to the hor­ror char­ac­ter Slen­der Man.

Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal-Sen­tinel/MICHAEL SEARS

Anissa Weier (left), shown in court Thursday, will spend at least three years in a men­tal hospi­tal un­der the terms of a plea agree­ment reached last month.

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