One of two Wisconsin girls who tried to kill a classmate to win favour with a fictional horror character named Slender Man has been sentenced to 25 years in a mental hospital, the maximum punishment possible.
Anissa Weier, 16, pleaded guilty in August to being a party to attempted second-degree intentional homicide, but she claimed she wasn’t responsible for her actions because she was mentally ill. In September, a jury agreed.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren has now sentenced Weier to 25 years in a psychiatric institution, retroactive to the date of the crime.
That means she will institutionalised until age 37.
How the attack happened
Weier and Morgan Geyser lured Payton Leutner into a wooded park in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb, in 2014.
Geyser stabbed Leutner 19 times while Weier urged her on, according to investigators.
Leutner survived after she crawled out of the woods to a path where a passing cyclist found her.
All three girls were aged 12 at the time of the attack.
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 him.
Slender Man started with an online post in 2009, as a mysterious spectre whose image people edit into everyday scenes of children at play.
He is typically depicted as a spidery figure in a black suit with a featureless white face. He was regarded by his devotees as alternately a sinister force and an avenging angel.
Weier apologised in brief comments before her sentencing.
“I do hold myself accountable for this and that I will do whatever I have to do to make sure I don’t get any sort of delusion or whatever again,” Weier told the judge as she sat next to her attorney.
“I want everybody involved to know I deeply regret everything that happened that day.
“I know that nothing I say is going to make this right and nothing I say is going to fix what I broke.”
Victim still fears for her life
Leutner family spokesman Steve Lyons said they were pleased with the sentence.
“The sentence today allows for some additional closure for Payton and her family and it also keeps both Payton, her family and the community safe,” Mr Lyons said.
Payton’s mother, Stacie Leutner, sent the judge a letter this week in which she wrote that the trauma of the attack “has defined our lives” and that her daughter still fears for her life.
For months, Payton slept with scissors under her pillow for protection, and she still keeps her bedroom windows closed and locked.
“She will struggle with the events of that day and physical and emotional scars it left for the rest of her life,” her mother wrote.
In a deal with prosecutors Geyser, who did the stabbing, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree intentional homicide with the agreement that she is not criminally responsible and should not go to prison.
She will be sentenced in February, and prosecutors have asked that she be given at least 40 years in a mental hospital.