It was one of the creepiest, most bizarre internet stories of recent years: the fictional character of Slender Man. The paranormal figure was born in a Photoshop contest in 2009 and somehow became an internet sensation, featuring in horror stories around the world and eventually inspiring two 12-year-old schoolgirls to attempt to murder a classmate in 2014.
The girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, said they believed they had to kill Payton Leutner, also 12, to win the approval of Slender Man and protect their families from him. Investigators said Geyser stabbed Leutner 19 times with encouragement from Weier. Leutner narrowly survived after crawling out of the wooded park in Waukesha, Milwaukee, where the attack happened and being spotted by a passing cyclist.
On Thursday, Weier, now 16, was sentenced to 25 years in a psychiatric institution for her part in the attack, the maximum possible punishment, Associated Press reported. In August she pleaded guilty to being a party to attempted second-degree intentional homicide, but claimed she was mentally ill and therefore not responsible for her actions.
A jury agreed in September and the Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren handed down her sentence this week, retroactive to the date of the crime, which will see her in hospital until she is 37.
Weier apologised for her actions before the sentencing, telling the judge she "[holds herself] accountable for this and... will do whatever I have to do to make sure I don’t get any sort of delusion or whatever again." She continued: “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.”
Neither Leutner nor her family were at the sentencing but her mother, Stacie Leutner, said in a letter that the attack has “defined [their] lives". Leutner said her daughter "will struggle with the events of that day and physical and emotional scars it left for the rest of her life."
The prosecutor, Kevin Osborne, said the maximum 25-year confinement was warranted for Weier: “Considering the nature and gravity of this offence, being supervised until the age of 37 is not all that long ... in terms of the fact that Payton is looking at a lifetime of scars, physical scars and psychological scarring."
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