Woman Who Stabbed Childhood Friend to Impress ‘Slender Man’ Won’t Be Released

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A judge on Thursday denied a request for the conditional release of a Wisconsin woman who stabbed a middle-school friend 19 times a decade ago, when they were both 12, in a crime that she later said was carried out to impress a sinister fictional figure named Slender Man.

In January, Morgan Geyser, 21, requested early release from her 40-year commitment to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh, Wis., where she has been held since 2018, petitioning Judge Michael O. Bohren of Waukesha County Circuit Court to consider whether she represented a threat to herself or others.

After hearing testimony from three experts and the director of the institute, Judge Bohren decided that there was significant risk that Ms. Geyser would commit harm herself or others, and that she should remain institutionalized.

After a slumber party in May 2014, Ms. Geyser and a classmate, Anissa Weier, then both 12, lured another 12-year-old girl, Payton Leutner, into a wooded area. Ms. Geyser stabbed Ms. Leutner 19 times as Ms. Weier urged her on. Severely wounded, Ms. Leutner crawled out of the woods and was found by a cyclist. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she later recovered from her injuries.

The police found Ms. Geyser and Ms. Weier hours after the attack near a highway with a kitchen knife in an old purse and a backpack full of granola bars, water and family photos. They said they were on their way to a mansion in Wisconsin’s Northwoods that they believed was the home of Slender Man, a fictional character generally depicted as a tall, shadowy figure with a blank face.

Ms. Weier and Ms. Geyser told the authorities that they had stabbed Ms. Leutner because they wanted to please Slender Man. They said they believed that Slender Man was real and that, by killing Ms. Leutner, they would become his “proxies.”

The attack rattled residents of Waukesha, a quiet, tidy suburb of 70,000 people west of Milwaukee, where the three girls lived with their families and attended middle school. The case also raised questions about how parents could keep their children from exploring the darker corners of the internet, such as the forum where Slender Man was born.

Slender Man was created as part of a Photoshop contest in the web forum Something Awful. From there, Slender Man stories, videos and pictures — all fictional — began to spread online.

Ms. Geyser and Ms. Weier were charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Under Wisconsin state law, they were charged as adults.

Ms. Geyser pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide as part of a deal in which prosecutors agreed not to seek prison time. She was sentenced to a 40-year commitment to the psychiatric hospital.

Ms. Weier pleaded guilty in 2017 to a lesser charge of attempted second-degree homicide. A jury later found that she was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the stabbing and that she should also get treatment rather than prison time. She was committed to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute for 25 years.

She was granted conditional release in July 2021 and is serving out the remainder of a commitment term at her father’s home under electronic monitoring.

Ms. Geyser began treatment for early onset schizophrenia while in custody in 2015, and was widely expected to be released under similar conditions, although she abandoned two earlier petitions for release, in 2022 and 2023, on the basis of a report from a psychologist. She filed her latest petition for conditional release in January.

Ms. Geyser’s mother, Angie Geyser, did not respond to an interview request before the hearing, but she spoke to the ABC News program “20/20” in 2018.

“I never would have imagined that my daughter was capable of hurting another person,” she said.

Ms. Leutner, who returned to middle school after a monthslong recovery from the attack, declined an interview request. “I want to be a normal person, and I want to heal in peace,” she said in a text message.

In an interview with “20/20” in 2019, she said she did not fear Ms. Geyser’s possible release.

“If she ever like tried to come by me, she would go right back where she was,” Ms. Leutner said in the interview.

Ms. Weier did not respond to messages seeking comment on the prospect of Ms. Geyser’s release, but her grandmother, Melody Weier, said she hoped that Ms. Geyser would remain hospitalized, “because of the illness.”

She said her granddaughter had struggled to return to normal life since her release from the psychiatric hospital.

“People judge,” she said. “It’s not fair.”


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