Girl in stabbing mentally ill
Verdict reached in case tied to fictional Internet demon
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.
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.
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.