Jury: Wis. girl men­tally ill in ‘Slen­der Man’ case

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Nation&world - By The Associated Press

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 11 hours of de­lib­er­a­tions. 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. All three girls were 12 at the time.

Geyser has pleaded not guilty to one count of at­tempted first-de­gree in­ten­tional homi­cide by rea­son of men­tal dis­ease or de­fect. Her trial is set to be­gin Oct. 9.

Both 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.

Slen­der Man, a fic­tional crea­ture of the in­ter­net, is a 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; oth­ers with ten­ta­cles pro­trud­ing from his back.

“This sounds crazy, be­cause it is,” McMa­hon said. Speak­ing of Weir, she 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.”

Weier, now 15, pleaded guilty to at­tempted sec­ond­de­gree in­ten­tional homi­cide in a deal with pros­e­cu­tors in Au­gust. But she claimed she was men­tally ill dur­ing the at­tack and 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 that may be lost on adults too busy to pay at­ten­tion.

“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. Leut­ner’s fam­ily left the court­room in si­lence; a victim wit­ness co­or­di­na­tor told re­porters the fam­ily had no 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 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.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Anissa Weier was ac­cused of help­ing a friend stab a class­mate nearly to death to please online horror char­ac­ter Slen­der Man.

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