Motivation becomes bigger factor in Slender Man stabbing case in Waukesha

Michael Sears
Morgan E. Geyser is brought into Waukesha County Circuit Court on Monday, Feb. 16. The preliminary hearing for Geyser and co-defendant Anissa E. Weier, accused of stabbing a friend in May, took place this week in the county courthouse. The judge earlier ruled photos of her must be below the neckline only.
Published on: 2/17/2015

Morgan Geyser told a Washington County Sheriff's Department deputy that "a man ordered" the killing of her friend and that "it had to be done."

Geyser told Deputy Shelley Grunke that she planned on stabbing her best friend — Payton "Bella" Leutner — to death in December 2013, five months before she and her co-defendant, Anissa Weier, looked at executing their plan.

While Geyser, the 12-year-old suspect charged with attempting to kill Leutner last year, didn't specify "the man" was Slender Man, a fictitious Internet horror character, Grunke said she knew Geyser was referencing a fictional character.

This fictional character, Slender Man, and his client's belief in it and what would happen to her and her family if she didn't kill someone, is why Geyser's attorney, Anthony Cotton, says "mitigating circumstances" should warrant the attempted first-degree intentional homicide offense be dismissed.

Instead, Cotton is arguing that an attempted second-degree intentional homicide took place.

"This is somebody who has a major psychotic condition, a major mental illness who was fixated on this character who doesn't believe that he's fictional, who believes that becoming a proxy (of Slender Man) is something that needs to be done to protect the family," Cotton said.

He added a motive usually isn't relevant in a preliminary hearing in attempted first-degree intentional homicide cases but is in this case.

On the other hand, Detective Tom Casey of the Waukesha Police Department, who interviewed Geyser in the moments after she was arrested last year, said a search warrant on the Geyser home computer showed that there was a search "on how to get away with murdering someone," research on medicine and first aid as well as research on capital punishment.

These statements were part of a two-day preliminary hearing Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 16-17, that revealed details of the attack for the first time in court with witness testimony from the state and defense.

Focus on probable cause

But Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren has not yet made a ruling on whether probable cause of attempted first-degree intentional homicide exists, something that is needed for the case to move forward in the adult court system.

That's because prosecutors requested that Bohren review the extensive interviews Geyser and Weier had with police detectives the day of the crime.

Closing statements will be submitted to the judge in writing before he makes a decision in court on Friday, March 13.

If Bohren says that Geyser and Weier committed the charged offense, the court would bind Geyser and Weier over for trial.

The state said at Tuesday's hearing that it felt the court can't consider Cotton's request during the preliminary hearing stage. However, Cotton says that's not the case.

"It's an incredibly complex legal issue," Cotton said after the hearing. "But I think the court can. There's nothing against the prosecution from charging an attempted second-degree and I think the facts are more aligned with attempted second-degree murder than first-degree intentional homicide.

"And that's because she believed in Slender Man. She believed he was real. She believed he was going to harm the family. That's the reason the crime was committed."

If Bohren agrees with Cotton, the case would be dismissed and the state would have to file the case in juvenile court.

"This is not a black-and-white situation, obviously," Bohren indicated Tuesday.

Attorneys for both girls have already indicated that they had planned after the preliminary hearings to make a request for a reverse waiver hearing, a separate hearing in which they would attempt to have the case moved into juvenile court.

The girls could be held in the juvenile system until they are 25 years old, while they face up to 65 years in prison if they are found guilty in the adult system.

Slender Man's mark

On Monday, the state brought four Waukesha police officers and detectives to the stand to show probable cause. Cotton and Joseph Smith Jr., Weier's attorney, brought their witnesses forward on Tuesday.

During a search of Geyser's bedroom, David Janisch, a private investigator and former city of Waukesha detective hired by Cotton, found mutilated Barbie dolls that had Slender Man symbols drawn on them. There were also slash marks on the dolls, which were found inside her bedroom. Pieces of notebook paper depicting Slender Man and other demons were also found in a Tupperware container in her bedroom closet.

Phrases on the pieces of paper included "Little child come to me," "The pain is inside," "He who waits," "He will find you," "Not even safe in your house" and "At the end of the path he waits."

Janisch said Geyser's parents "were surprised and shocked and sad" by what was found.

Notebook pages that depicted Slender Man and other Creepypasta Wiki characters found inside Geyser's old locker at Horning Middle School were also revealed in court Monday. Creepypasta, a website that allows users to share fictional horror stories, is where Geyser and Weier learned about Slender Man.

Deborah Collins, a licensed psychologist with the Wisconsin Forensic Unit and who interacted with Geyser six times last summer, said Tuesday that Geyser was motivated to do the bidding of Slender Man at no cost.

"Had she not acted, (she believed) Slender Man could have very well killed her and her family," Collins said Geyser told her. "He knows thoughts in her head."

Collins added there is no emotion attached to Geyser's comments because she says she has Vulcan mind control.

That tied in to Casey's statement that Geyser showed "absolutely" no remorse for her actions.

Co-defendants' roles

While Cotton focused on Geyser's belief of Slender Man, Smith, during the preliminary hearing, tried to distance his client from Geyser, who he portrayed as the ringleader with Weier following Geyser's orders.

But Weier, too, believed that Slender Man would harm her family if she and Geyser didn't kill someone and that on a couple of instances she said she saw Slender Man out of the corner of her eye, Detective Michelle Trussoni said.

"I was really scared knowing Slender Man could kill my family within three seconds," Weier said in her interview with Trussoni.

Trussoni said during Monday's hearing that when Weier saw Geyser with the knife the day of the crime, she said "Dear God, this is really happening."

During Trussoni's interview, a clip of Weier crying was shown in court on Monday. However, Geyser has told investigators that Weier introduced her to Slender Man and that they both stabbed Leutner.

Leutner told Shelly Fisher, a detective with the Waukesha Police Department who interviewed Leutner at the hospital six days after the attack, that Geyser is actually the one who stabbed her, while Weier stood beside them, in a wooded area just outside of David's Park after she and Weier celebrated Geyser's 12th birthday.

Fisher said Leutner told her that before Geyser stabbed her 19 times Geyser whispered in her ear "I'm so sorry."

Leutner, who survived the attack, has since returned to school and celebrated her 13th birthday on Feb. 13.

Meanwhile, Weier and Geyser will return to the Washington County Juvenile Detention Center.

Geyser had been staying at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute since August, but Cotton said that changed after the last court appearance in December.

While the judge originally approved her return to Winnebago, the court reconvened in emergency fashion after Winnebago wouldn't take her back because there was no commitment order. Cotton said his client is not on medication despite being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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