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The Slender Man trial continues Wednesday. Anissa Weier, 15, admits she tried to kill a classmate in 2014. Her own defense says she did it, and she reached a plea agreement in August, admitting to playing a role in attempted second-degree intentional homicide. But here’s the question facing a jury in Waukesha County, Wisconsin: is she responsible for what happened, or did mental illness interfere with her ability to tell right from wrong?
If the jury agrees with the defense, she’ll be committed to a mental hospital for at least three years. If jurors side with the state, however, she’ll spend at least 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors say she and co-defendant Morgan Geyser lured a classmate, another 12-year-old girl, to a park in Milwaukee. The victim was stabbed 19 times. She survived. The case captured national attention because of the alleged motive: the suspects wanted to placate the Slender Man, a fictional creature of internet lore. Her defense says she suffered from a mental illness, and it interfered with her judgment.
Tuesday began with opening statements.
“Her broken mind cause her to lose touch with reality,” defense lawyer Joseph Smith said about his client.
He showed police interrogation video where Weier claimed to fear for her loved ones. She described the supposed creature, who was extremely tall, had no face, and could grow tendrils from his back.
“I was really scared, knowing Slender Man could kill my whole family,” she said. Smith argued that Weier believed fictional internet accounts of the creature to be real.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Osborne didn’t buy that. He argued that Weier, who was 12 at the time, went along with the murder plot in order to preserve her friendship with Geyser.
“Do they have a delusion that Slender Man exists?” he said. “Maybe.” But he argued that they were still aware that what they did was wrong. Weier supposedly worried that the creature would’ve killed her or her family had she not attempted murder–Szczupakiewicz claimed she wasn’t even aware of that until after the stabbing.
The defendant’s father William Weier was first to the stand. He said his daughter was a “normal child” who went though a challenging time in school during her parents’ divorce.
Several of the defendant’s then-classmates also testified. The judge did not allow their faces photographed or videotaped because they are minors. One girl, “K.N.“, said that Weier told her that the only way to become a servant of the creature was to kill a friend.
Christine Reinders, Weier’s 4th Grade teacher, testified that the defendant suffered difficulty in school. She said Weier could be emotional, especially during her parents’ divorce, and would isolate herself in class. She was not disruptive or mean, however.
Lt. Tom Moerman of the Waukesha Sheriff’s Department said he was involved when authorities apprehended Weier. He testified that she was cooperative, and told him that men were going to hurt her family if she didn’t do something bad.
Detective Thomas Casey, the lead investigator, testified that Geyser kept notebooks with drawings of the Slender Man.
Both Weier and Geyser were originally charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Geyser pleaded not guilty, and her trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 9.
Correction, Sept. 16 12:27 a.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Osborne as Deputy District Attorney Ted Szczupakiewicz.
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