A Really Bizarre Youth Crime

This is an old story (from 2015) – but I’m wondering, “How can preteens do this?”.  Well, I suppose children are up to do whatever adults do – as difficult as this is to accept.


The girls are both from Waukesha, a conservative Milwaukee suburb. They each face a charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the May 2014 attack on their classmate, Payton Leutner. According to a criminal complaint, the girls plotted for months before they lured Payton into some woods after a sleepover and attacked her with a knife. Payton was stabbed 19 times but survived.

Morgan Geyser admitted to police that she lured another 12-year-old into the woods of Waukesha, Wisconsin after a sleepover and stabbed her 19 times. (Abe Van Dyke)


The girls told investigators they hoped killing Payton would please Slender Man, a character they had read about in online horror stories. The tales describe Slender Man as an unnaturally thin, faceless creature who preys on children.

Police captured the girls on the outskirts of the city that same day. They told investigators they planned to walk 300 miles to the Nicolet National Forest, where they hoped to live as Slender Man’s servants in his mansion.

All three girls were 12 years old at the time. Anyone 10 or older charged with first-degree attempted homicide is automatically considered an adult under Wisconsin law.

The girls could face up to 65 years in the state prison system if they’re convicted as adults. The juvenile system, in contrast, is geared more toward rehabilitation than punishment. The girls could be held as juveniles for only five years.

Their attorneys had argued they belong in juvenile court because their brains aren’t fully developed, they suffer from mental illness and they won’t get the treatment they need in the adult system. They also asked Bohren to find the state law forcing 10-year-olds into adult court unconstitutional because it leads to cruel and unusual punishment.

Anissa Weier is accused of helping plot their friend’s murder for months before carrying out the attack. (Abe Van Dyke)

Bohren refused to find the statutes unconstitutional on Thursday, writing that juveniles aren’t as culpable for their actions as adults but that doesn’t exempt them from adult sentences.

He rejected the rest of the defense teams’ arguments on Monday. He acknowledged what he called the girls’ delusions and mental illness, but said if he moved them into the juvenile system they’d be free and clear at age 18 with no oversight and no more treatment. If they are convicted as adults, they’d eventually be released on extended supervision and treatment would continue.

He said keeping the girls in the adult system would protect the community, noting again that their alleged crime was no accident.

“This was an effort to kill someone,” the judge said. “This was premeditated murder.”

The judge set the girls’ arraignment, the point in the criminal justice system when defendants enter pleas, for Aug. 21.

The Associated Press isn’t naming the girls because an appeals court could still move their cases to juvenile court, where proceedings are closed to the public.



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