Officer: Slender Man stabbing victim says defendant obsessed

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) -- A detective who interviewed a 12-year-old girl  after she was stabbed repeatedly and left for dead in a Wisconsin park  in 2014 testified Wednesday that one of the two classmates accused of  attacking her had been scaring her beforehand with stories about  characters from a horror website.

It was their devotion to the  fictional horror character Slender Man that authorities say motivated  sixth-grader classmate Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier to stab Payton  Leutner 19 times in a Waukesha park.

Leutner became so concerned about the stories Geyser was telling her  that she asked her mother if they were real, Waukesha Police Detective  Shelly Fisher said. Leutner told Fisher her mother tried to assure her  it was all fiction, but she also told the detective that she still was  uncertain and wanted to believe Geyser even after she stabbed her, the  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Leutner also recounted the day the stabbing happened to Fisher. She described the three separate incidents where Weiser and Geyser attempted to kill Leutner with the most chilling testimony coming when the girls were at a Waukesha park.

"The three entered this [bathroom] stall and Morgan locked the stall," Fisher said. "Morgan had first grabbed [Leutner's] arms and held them behind her back. Then Anissa stood in front of her and just kind of stared at her. Morgan said to Anissa, 'I thought we agreed you were going to do this."
The girls switched spots so Anissa was holding Leutner from fighting back but the plan ended there. However, the girls weren't finished. They played hide and seek in the nearby woods where Leutner was stabbed 19 times.

"Morgan had approached her and Payton was laying on her back so Morgan sat on her legs," Fisher said. "She said I'm very sorry and started stabbing her. Morgan said she had to do this in order to save her life."

Fisher testified in the trial of Weier, now 15. Jurors will determine  whether Weier was mentally ill and therefore not criminally responsible  at the time. Geyser, who did the actual stabbing, is scheduled to go on  trial next month.

Weier told investigators she and Geyser believed they had to kill  Leutner or else Slender Man would kill them and their families. Jurors  saw clips Wednesday of investigators questioning Weier after the attack,  during which Weier moved from apparent complete belief in Slender Man,  to some doubt, to a realization by the end of her interrogation that she  had been duped.

"I know now it's just teenagers who really like scaring people and making them believe false things," Weier told Waukesha Detective Michelle Trussoni.

In his questioning of Trussoni, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Osborne focused on the fact Weier didn't clearly tell anyone she was afraid of Slender Man's wrath until after the stabbing, reinforcing his comments in opening statements Tuesday that Weier understood that what they were doing was wrong, but that she went along with the plot to preserve her friendship with Geyser.

However, in the afternoon, the defense called a doctor to the stand who diagnosed Weier. 
Doctor Melissa Westendorf says Weier suffers from shared psychotic disorder, something shared between at least two people or more. She says because of this, she should be considered mentally responsible for this crime.

"The evidence indicated to me, they couldn't conform their behavior to the requirements of the law," Westendorf said. 

She explained how Geyser is the primary person with the disorder while Weier served as secondary. She says Geyser's mental illness essentially influenced Weier. 

"The second person in this instance shares those psychotic symptoms," Westendorf said.

"Delusional symptoms are present with this disorder and in this case, that second person may not have any of those other psychotic symptoms. They may not have hallucinations, mood problems or cognitive slowing. But they do share this one common symptom which is delusions."

The prosecution likened their feelings to Slender Man as the same feelings children have for Santa Claus. They argued at 12 years old, children can start to challenge ideas of Santa being real. It wasn't something Westendorf disagreed with. 

"We share with our children this belief in Santa Claus," Westendorf said. "It's culturally accepted. If you look at adults who have delusions, some have delusions about being Jesus or being God. What they do, they take what's culturally accepted figures in our society and incorporate themselves into it. This is similar to Slender Man. They incorporate themselves into it. Slender Man appeared to be a part of the culture of middle school."

The state argued there were no other cases of middle school students killing another student to please Slender Man. Westendorf agreed but says these girls were more susceptible to believing Slender Man was actually real and not fiction.

"There's magical thinking towards Santa Claus," Westendorf said. "We all think of it. Kids start doubting it. They start challenging those concepts. We have to remember, these girls were 12 as well. Morgan was much more susceptible. Her magical thinking took on a delusional quality earlier. She had delusions about Harry Potter, Voldemort, Snape. Anissa still had that magical thinking as well. This occurred over a short period of time within about six to seven months. It's different than Santa Claus because they were incorporating themselves into this whole genre of Slender Man."

Westendorf says this is a rare diagnosis especially in a case with two friends. She says it happens more commonly with siblings, spouses or even between a parent and child. However, defense attorney Maura McMahon says it just explains how close these two girls were.

"I know you don't remember what it was like to be a 14 or 12 year old girl," McMahon said. "I do. Your friends at that point in time mean more to you than anyone. You are in a really close relationship with your friends. It's very analogous to being a sibling."

Westendorf also says during her interview with Weier, she still holds onto ideas that Slender Man could be real.

"I think we're in the process of her tyring to make sense of [the stabbing]," Westendorf said. "I couldn't have believed that. I don't believe that. But if you go through the evidence and go back through all the other information, she did believe it. There were indications in the interview she still holds onto it. It's changed, but she still holds onto it. I asked her, in the end, you didn't prove either way Slender Man was real or not real and she looked at me and says, 'Exactly."

Both Weier and Geyser were originally 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.

Geyser's trial is due to begin Oct. 9. She has also pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease.

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