Attorney: Girl in Slender Man case had 'broken mind'

Posted at 6:43 PM, Sep 12, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin girl who told investigators she helped stab a classmate was convinced the crime would protect her and her family from a horror character called Slender Man who she thought was real, her attorney told jurors Tuesday.

The defense is trying to convince jurors that Anissa Weier was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the stabbing at a Waukesha park in 2014 and therefore is not criminally responsible.

Payton Leutner was stabbed 19 times in a plot by Weier and co-defendant Morgan Geyser and left in a wooded park where she eventually crawled for help after the girls left, according to prosecutors. A passing bicyclist found Leutner. Weier and Geyser were arrested later that day and said they were walking to meet Slender Man in a northern Wisconsin forest. All three girls were 12 years old at the time.

"Anissa's broken mind caused her to lose touch with reality," defense attorney Joseph Smith told jurors. "Anissa was under the command and control of a delusional disorder."

During his opening statements, Smith played portions of a police interrogation of Weier shortly after her arrest in which she described a plot to kill Leutner in order to become a proxy of Slender Man, whom she described as tall and faceless with numerous tentacles capable of killing her family in a matter of seconds.

Weier, now 15, sat nearby while the snippets of the interview were played on a large screen for jurors.

Smith described Weier as a loner who struggled to fit in with her peers and who found a friend in Geyser. While Weier was dealing with her parents' divorce, teachers began noticing symptoms of depression, he said. With Geyser, Weier developed a "delusional belief system" and together they made a plan to kill Leutner and become Slender Man's proxies, Smith said. Although Weier did not physically stab Leutner, in her mind she knew it had to be done, Smith told jurors.

Waukesha County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Osborne told jurors that Weier may have believed Slender Man was real, but she had the mental capacity to know she was committing a crime. Osborne says the initial plan was for Weier to stab Leutner, but Weier couldn't do it and instead directed Geyser to do the stabbing.

"They knew this was wrong. They understood what they were doing was wrong," Osborne said.

Osborne said the police interviews show it wasn't until after the attack had taken place that Geyser told Weier that Weier or her family could have been in danger.

"She goes along because she wants to preserve the one and only friendship" with Geyser, he said.

William Weier, the first defense witness, testified that his daughter went through trying times in grade school as her parents divorced but he never saw anything to suggest she needed mental health care.

"In my opinion, she was a normal child," he said.

A former classmate of Weier's who also was interested in Slender Man testified that Weier told her one day that she had discovered how to become a Slender Man servant: By killing a friend.

The girl, identified in court only by her initials, K.N., testified that Weier then told her: "Don't worry, it's not you."

The lead investigator in the case, Waukesha police Det. Thomas Casey, also took the stand Tuesday.

Casey was on the stand for nearly three hours as the defense combed through evidence from both Weier and Geyser. The defense tried to show the differences between the two girls. 

They say Weier showed very few visible signs of needing mental help while Geyser had several red flags. They say she had was suspended from school for bringing a rubber mallet and played with her own bloody finger in front of classmates. However, the biggest differences were in their notebooks. 

Weier had only a few references to Slender Man in her Spanish notebook while Geyser had two notebooks filled with disturbing drawings, words and lists referencing Slender Man. However, Casey says it's nothing that raised concerns to officials. 

"Lots of kids doodle when they get bored," Casey said. People have different dark sides. There used to be the Texas Chainsaw murders, Friday the 13th, [Freddie Krueger]. I don't know if that's a for sure sign someone is going to kill a classmate. My interview was with nine people ont he staff. None of those nine people recognized anything that they would have thought the person was going to go and kill a classmate."

One of Weier's former teachers also took the stand. Christine Reinders was a reading teacher for Weier for two years. She says Weier really connected with the text they read but struggled when analyzing or interpreting the text further. 

Both Weier and Geyser were charged with being a party to  attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Weier struck a deal with  prosecutors in August in which she pleaded guilty to being a party to  attempted second-degree intentional homicide, essentially acknowledging  she committed all the elements of the offense. But she also pleaded not  guilty due to mental illness of defect, setting up the trial on her  mental status.

Judge Michael Bohren told jurors they must decide whether Weier  had a mental illness at the time of the crime and if so, whether she  lacked the capacity to understand her wrongful conduct.

Psychologists testified at a previous court hearing that Weier  suffered from persistent depression and a delusional disorder linked to  schizotypy, a diminished ability to separate reality from fantasy.

At least 10 of the 12 jurors must agree on a verdict.

Geyser has pleaded not guilty to being a party to first-degree attempted homicide. Her trial is set to begin Oct. 9.