A Wisconsin judge says two girls accused of stabbing a classmate to please the horror character Slender Man will stay in adult court, where they could face decades in prison.
The 13-year-old girls' attorneys wanted the cases transferred to juvenile court, where the girls could be held for only five years. But Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren ruled Monday they should remain in adult court.
The girls are accused of luring Payton Leutner into the woods during a sleepover and attacking her in May 2014. Payton was stabbed 19 times but survived. All three girls were 12 at the time.
The suspects were charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, automatically placing them in adult court under Wisconsin law. If convicted, they could face up to 65 years in prison.
Defense attorneys for both girls argue their clients are mentally ill. One attorney says his client is a schizophrenic who still believes fictional characters such as Slender Man and Harry Potter truly exist. They argued that the girls will receive better treatment in the juvenile system. Prosecutors said transferring them out of adult court would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.
Prosecutors allege the girls, who are both from Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb, had plotted for months to kill classmate Payton Leutner in hopes of pleasing Slender Man. They planned to live with the horror character as his servants after the slaying, according to investigators.
They lured Leutner into some woods at a park in May 2014 and stabbed her 19 times before fleeing, according to court documents. A passing bicyclist found Leutner, who survived. Police captured the two girls later that day as they were walking to the Nicolet National Forest, 300 miles away, where they believed Slender Man lived in a mansion.
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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.
Attorneys for one girl maintain she is an emerging schizophrenic who even now still carries on conversations with Harry Potter characters. If she goes to an adult prison, they say, she won't get the therapy she needs and her symptoms will worsen.
"(The girl) is not the hardened, irascible offender who ... needs to be taught a lesson through adult court placement," her attorney, Anthony Cotton, wrote in court filings.
Prosecutors Kevin Osborne and Ted Szczupakiewicz countered in their own filing that she would get a longer span of treatment in prison than the juvenile system, and keeping her case in adult court sends a message to the "defendant and other juveniles: that serious actions have serious, adult consequences."
The other girl's attorneys have asked Bohren, on top of the juvenile system request, to declare that the law forcing 10-year-olds into adult court is unconstitutional. They insist it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment against children who can't control themselves because their brains aren't fully developed.
"Since severe adult penalties do not achieve their stated goals of rehabilitation ... when applied to juveniles, they serve only to punish excessively," one of the girl's attorneys, Maura McMahon, wrote in court documents.
Prosecutors have argued that Bohren can't decide whether the punishment is excessive because the girl hasn't been sentenced. Legislators had a rational basis to pass the law as an attempt to curb juvenile crime and protect the public, they added.