Cases like these are the exact reason my mother always told my sister and me to stay away from the horror stories before bed. She would always tell us that if given enough attention fictional horror stories somehow always manifest into the real world; they turn out to be nightmares we cannot wake up from. Unfortunately, my mother was always right, as this case has proven.
Like any great horror story, it has to be created somewhere, right? Well, Slender Man is a fictional character that originated as an Internet meme. Slender Man was created on a thread in the Something Awful Internet forum which began on June 8, 2009, with the goal of editing photographs to contain supernatural entities.
On June 10, a forum poster, “Victor Surge,” contributed two black and white images of groups of children, to which he added a tall, thin spectral figure wearing a black suit. Previous entries had consisted solely of photographs. Surge enhanced his submission with snatches of text, supposedly from witnesses, describing the abductions of the groups of children and giving the character named, “The Slender Man.”
The quote under the first photograph read, “We did not want to go, we did not want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time… 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.”
Stories of the Slender Man commonly feature him stalking, abducting, or traumatizing people, particularly children.
Now fast forward to Wisconsin in 2014, this is the worst thing anyone could ever imagine. Two twelve-year-old girls invited their friend (also another twelve-year-old girl) to a slumber party on a Friday evening. They planned to kill her during the night so they would not have to look into her eyes, and then run away. They decided to put it off, but the next day, during a hide-and-seek game in a wooded park, they attacked their friend with a knife. One girl told the other to “go ballistic, go crazy.”
The victim began to scream that she hated them and started stumbling away. The girls left the victim lying in the woods. She crawled to the road where a bicyclist found her lying on the sidewalk. Police arrived, and she gave them the name of one of the girls who attacked her. She was then rushed into surgery.
The reason for this insane tragedy? The two little girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, wanted to prove themselves to the mythical creature Slender Man. They believed he was real and wanted to prove they belonged with him. Geyser and Weier are charged as adults with attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
Wisconsin is one of the toughest states when it comes to punishing children the same as adults. A 1995 state law requires prosecutors to file adult charges in homicide or attempted homicide cases if the child is at least 10. Twenty-eight other states have similar laws, although their minimum age is no younger than 13.
I had a chance to speak with two lawyers, Nicole DeBorde and Dwane Cates, about this case. They like everyone around the world are shocked by what has happened. More importantly they agree on one major thing, the law requiring prosecutors to file adult charges is not right for this case and these children.
“There is considerable research that young people’s brains are not fully formed. The part of their brain that says “maybe I should not do this” is not fully functional. Children should be treated different than adults because they are different. They should only be transferred to adult court in first degree murder cases. They should make every attempt to rehabilitate these girls,” says Dwane Cates.
DeBorde agrees with Cates saying, “Wisconsin’s law seems to be a little draconian. We have a juvenile court because a child’s mind is different than an adult’s. The differences still exist even where the crime is a serious one. A better system would be to start the child out in juvenile court and look for factors which might indicate the child in question should be handled as an adult. Factors might include prior criminal conduct and the seriousness of the crime. The inquiry should be made prior to certifying the person as an adult. These girls are only two years older than what many courts have recognized as the age by which we can even be held responsible for criminal culpability in juvenile courts.”
These two professionals have made excellent points. Yes, this is a horrible even unspeakable tragedy, but what the courts are not seeing is that these two girls are just that, LITTLE girls. The young girl’s lawyers are trying to pull mental illness into the case to save the girls from facing 65 years behind bars.
When I asked both Cates and DeBorde about a mental illness claim playing a factor in this major national case the two again agreed a mental illness claim would be a factor in this case:
Ms. DeBores offers her opinion saying, “Mental health issues can always be a game changer. If the child (or even in cases dealing with adult defendants) has a mental disease or disability preventing them from understanding the difference between right and wrong, the courts are required to take this into account. If a person does not have the capacity for understanding the nature of their crime, they cannot be held responsible for understanding.”
Mr. Cates (who seems to be more blunt with his opinions) offers, “There will be mental health claims, trust me. That is the only defense that they have. However, mental health defenses are very difficult. The defense must show that the girls suffered from a mental defect and that they could not tell right from wrong. They could also assert that they are now suffering from a mental defect and that they could not assist their counsel nor do they understand the proceedings against them. These are very tough to prove and can be cured. If cured, the case would proceed.”
Only time will tell what the outcome of these two young girls’ futures holds. It is a miracle the third little girl is alive and healing faster than doctors expected her to. Let us keep her in our heart and prayers.