MADISON, Wis. – One of two girls accused of trying to kill a 12-year-old classmate to please horror character Slender Man two years ago pleaded not guilty Friday by reason of mental disease or defect.
Morgan Geyser, 14, entered her plea to one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide during a status conference in Waukesha County Circuit Court. Judge Michael Bohren appointed two doctors to examine her.
Her attorney, Tony Cotton, said in a telephone interview after the conference ended that he felt the facts of the case fit a mental illness plea. Experts have testified already that Geyser suffers from schizophrenia and oppositional defiant disorder and maintains relationships with imaginary characters.
Bohren said he will look to schedule a trial in March or as soon as prosecutors and Cotton are ready. If Geyser is convicted, the mental illness plea necessitates another trial to determine her mental state at the time of the crime, Cotton said. If she's found mentally deficient, she would be ordered confined to a mental hospital. If she's deemed mentally fit, she would serve up to 40 years in prison and 20 years on extended supervision.
The other girl in the case, who is now 14 as well, also faces one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide. She pleaded not guilty last year. Bohren on Thursday said he would look to schedule her trial for March as well.
Assistant District Attorney Ted Szczupakiewicz, who is leading the prosecution of both girls, didn't immediately return a voicemail message Friday.
Anyone 10 or older charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide is automatically considered an adult under state law. The Associated Press hadn't previously named the girls because their attorneys had been seeking to move their cases into juvenile court, where they could be incarcerated for three years and then supervised under age 18.
A state appeals court, however, ruled last month that both girls' cases should remain in adult court, saying the crime was planned and violent. That leaves the state Supreme Court as the girls' last hope of being moved into juvenile court, but Cotton said Friday he won't ask the high court to take Geyser's case because it doesn't present a novel question of law.
The other girl's attorney, Maura McMahon, didn't immediately respond to a voicemail asking if she planned to appeal to the Supreme Court.
According to court documents, the girls invited their classmate, Payton Leutner, to a birthday sleepover in May 2014. All three girls were 12 years old at the time.
The next day they lured Leutner into some woods at a Waukesha park, stabbed her repeatedly and then fled. Leutner suffered 19 stab wounds, including one that doctors said narrowly missed a major artery near her heart. Leutner crawled to a road where a bicyclist found her.
Police captured Geyser and the other girl on Waukesha's outskirts later that day. They told investigators they had hoped killing Leutner would gain them favor with Slender Man, a demon-like character featured in online horror stories. They said they were planning to walk 300 miles to the Nicolet National Forest, where they hoped to live as Slender Man's servants in his mansion.
Leutner recovered from her wounds and returned to school that fall.