Doc: Slender Man suspect better off in juvenile court

Gretchen Ehlke
Associated Press

Waukesha, Wis. — One of the two Wisconsin girls charged with trying to kill a friend to please a mythical horror character would be better off in the juvenile justice system where potential treatment would be more suited to her needs, a psychologist testified in court Wednesday.

A judge in Waukesha County Circuit Court is expected to determine whether the girl, 13, should remain in adult court or be transferred to the juvenile system where a conviction would carry a lighter sentence.

The girl and a 12-year-old friend are accused of stabbing a classmate 19 times to gain favor with Slender Man, a fictitious character they believed could kill them or their families. Payton Leutner, now 13, survived the attack last May at a Waukesha park.

Dr. Michael Caldwell, a senior staff psychologist at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison, met with the 13-year-old charged in the attack both in July and November. Caldwell testified the defendant suffered from delusions at the time Leutner was attacked.

“Her psychological maturity would have prevented her from thinking about or rationally evaluating some of those delusions,” Caldwell said. But he added that he believes the girl is no longer delusional.

“She’s at a remarkably low risk for any kind of violence,” he said, testifying for the defense while the girl sat shackled nearby in the courtroom.

The defense has asked a judge to declare unconstitutional the underlying law that put the case in adult court. There was no indication when Circuit Judge Michael Bohren would rule on the defense motion.

Wisconsin law requires children as young as 10 to be charged as adults for some crimes. The burden then falls to the defendant to prove the case belongs in juvenile court.

If convicted in the adult system, the girls face up to 60 years in prison. If moved to the juvenile system and convicted, they would remain in that system until age 18.

The Associated Press isn’t naming the defendants because it hasn’t been determined whether they will be transferred to juvenile court, where proceedings are closed to the public.