Two twelve-year-old girls lead their friend into a forest in Wisconsin. They start playing hide and go seek. Then, the two girls attack their friend. Stabbing her 19 times with a knife, they hit her liver, pancreas, and stomach. They only miss hitting an artery near her heart by a millimeter.
The victim crawls out of the woods to a road after her attackers have fled; almost bleeding to death, she’s found by a bicyclist. Miraculously, she survives.
Although this sounds like a horror movie, it’s a true story that occurred in Wisconsin on May 30, 2014. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were the perpetrators who almost stabbed their friend, Payton Leutner, to death.
What influenced this murderous act? What could have had such an effect on these two young girls, to make them want to kill their friend? It all started from a completely fictional online character: Slender Man.
Slender Man was created by Eric Knudsen, who submitted a Photoshopped picture to the online forum Something Awful. The character was created for the websites contest for fake supernatural photographs.
Morgan Geyser, top left, Anissa Weier, bottom left, Slender Man on the right.
The two girls discovered the character on Creepypasta Wiki, and immediately decided to become “proxies” of him. In order to please Slender Man and prove their dedication to him, they believed they had to kill someone. Which is what led them to attempt murder on Leutner.
This case exemplifies just how powerful social media can be. According to Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack, “The Internet has changed the way we live. It is full of information and wonderful sites that teach and entertain. The Internet can also be full of dark and wicked things.” Although necessary in this digital age, the internet can produce a blurry line between real life, and online personas.
Both girls have been tried as adults, and can face up to 65 years in prison. The next court date is December 18, 2014. Geyser, deemed incompetent to stand trial, will attend treatment with a possibility of becoming competent enough to attend court.
So, are the girls guilty or insane? If Geyser’s attorney was to defend her based on an insanity defense, she would have to take the Model Penal Code test. This test is used in Wisconsin insanity defense cases. The test determines if the defendant suffers from a mental defect. This determines if the defendant “either failed to understand the criminality of his acts, or was unable to act within the confines of the law”.
We won’t know the answer to this question until the trial is over, and for a case like this, it could be a while. This horrific case shows just how powerful social media can be. It’s vital to make the lines crystal clear between real life and social media personas you may have. Getting caught up online can get you into a lot of trouble; in a professional, social, or even legal manner.