Slender Man defendants plead not guilty

MILWAUKEE - Two 13-year-old girls have pleaded not guilty to attempted homicide charges after being accused of repeatedly stabbing a classmate as a sacrifice to an online horror character.

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier are being tried as adults and face decades in prison if convicted in the May 2014 attack. A judge entered their pleas Friday.

Investigators say the two plotted to lure Payton Leutner into some woods in Waukesha after a sleepover. They say the girls intended to kill Payton to win the favor of Slender Man, an character described as unnaturally tall and thin with no visible facial features.

Slender Man stories have proliferated online in recent years. The girls wanted to kill for him, in part, to prove his existence, police documents allege.

The girls, 12 at the time of the stabbing, believed they would have a home in Slender Man's mansion if they carried out the attack, police say.

After stabbing their friend and leaving her for dead, the girls started walking to a forest 300 miles away, where they believed he lived, according to police documents.

Payton suffered 19 stab wounds, including one that doctors say narrowly missed a major artery near her heart. After the attack in a wooded park, she crawled to a road. and was found lying on a sidewalk by a passing bicyclist. Despite the attack, she staged what her family called a "miraculous" recovery and was back in school in September, three months after the attack.

Defense attorneys have argued that the case belongs in juvenile court, saying the adolescents suffer from mental illness and won't get the treatment they need in the adult prison system.

But Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren decided this month that the girls should be tried in adult court, despite their age, saying if they were found guilty in the juvenile system they would be released at 18 years of age with no supervision or mental health treatment. Keeping them in the adult system would protect them longer, he said.

They each face a charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

The girls face 65 years in prison if convicted as adults. They have been in custody since being arrested the day of the attack.

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