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LIVE STREAM: 'Slender Man' trial underway in Wisconsin for Anissa Weier

"Anissa's broken mind caused her to lose touch with reality"

Anissa Weier, left, talks to her attorney, Maura McMahon, during jury selection
Anissa Weier, left, talks to her attorney, Maura McMahon, during jury selection

WAUKESHA, WI. – A Wisconsin girl who told investigators she helped stab a classmate was convinced the crime would protect her and her family from a horror character called Slender Man who she thought was real, her attorney told jurors Tuesday.

The defense is trying to convince jurors that Anissa Weier was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the stabbing at a Waukesha park in 2014 and therefore is not criminally responsible.

The trial is underway and you can watch it here on ClickOnDetroit.com

The 'Slender Man' case

Payton Leutner was stabbed 19 times in a plot by Weier and co-defendant Morgan Geyser and left in a wooded park where she eventually crawled for help after the girls left, according to prosecutors. A passing bicyclist found Leutner. Weier and Geyser were arrested later that day and said they were walking to meet Slender Man in a northern Wisconsin forest. All three girls were 12 years old at the time.

"Anissa's broken mind caused her to lose touch with reality," defense attorney Joseph Smith told jurors. "Anissa was under the command and control of a delusional disorder."

During his opening statements, Smith played portions of a police interrogation of Weier shortly after her arrest in which she described a plot to kill Leutner in order to become a proxy of Slender Man, whom she described as tall and faceless with numerous tentacles capable of killing her family in a matter of seconds.

Weier, now 15, sat nearby while the snippets of the interview were played on a large screen for jurors.

Smith described Weier as a loner who struggled to fit in with her peers and who found a friend in Geyser. While Weier was dealing with her parents' divorce, teachers began noticing symptoms of depression, he said. With Geyser, Weier developed a "delusional belief system" and together they made a plan to kill Leutner and become Slender Man's proxies, Smith said. Although Weier did not physically stab Leutner, in her mind she knew it had to be done, Smith told jurors.

Psychologist: Shared delusion led to Slender Man stabbing

A shared delusion and an interest in the paranormal led two girls to stab another 12-year-old girl in a Wisconsin park as a tribute to the fictional horror character Slender Man, a psychologist testified Wednesday.

Melissa Westendorf was appointed by a judge to evaluate one of the girls, Anissa Weier, now 15, after her insanity plea. Westendorf testified at Weier's mental capacity trial that she believes Weier suffered from a shared delusional disorder that left her unable to conform her conduct to the law when she and Morgan Geyser tried to kill their friend, Payton Leutner, in 2014.

Westendorf acknowledged under cross-examination that the condition is rare among two children who are friends. She said most cases involve spouses, a parent and child, or siblings.

Weier's attorney, Joseph Smith Jr., asked why Weier, a good student, did not recognize that the belief in Slender Man and his powers to kill them or their families was a delusion.

"First of all, she was 12," Westendorf said, adding that Weier was influenced by a website focused on imaginary killers and boogeymen. "If adults have trouble distinguishing fake news, 12-year-olds will, because their brains can't yet discern or analyze as well."

Earlier, a detective who interviewed the victim after she was stabbed repeatedly and left for dead in a Waukesha park testified that Geyser had been scaring her beforehand with stories about characters from a horror website.

Leutner became so concerned about the stories Geyser was telling her that she asked her mother if they were real, Waukesha Police Detective Shelly Fisher said. Leutner told Fisher her mother tried to assure her it was all fiction, but she also told the detective that she still was uncertain and wanted to believe Geyser even after she stabbed her, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Jurors will determine whether Weier was mentally ill and therefore not criminally responsible at the time. Geyser, who did the actual stabbing, is scheduled to go on trial next month.

Weier told investigators she and Geyser believed they had to kill Leutner or else Slender Man would kill them and their families. Jurors saw clips Wednesday of investigators questioning Weier after the attack, during which Weier moved from apparent complete belief in Slender Man, to some doubt, to a realization by the end of her interrogation that she had been duped.

"I know now it's just teenagers who really like scaring people and making them believe false things," Weier told Waukesha Detective Michelle Trussoni.

In his questioning of Trussoni, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Osborne focused on the fact Weier didn't clearly tell anyone she was afraid of Slender Man's wrath until after the stabbing, reinforcing his comments in opening statements Tuesday that Weier understood that what they were doing was wrong, but that she went along with the plot to preserve her friendship with Geyser.

Both Weier and Geyser were originally charged with being a party to attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Weier struck a deal with prosecutors in August in which she pleaded guilty to being a party to attempted second-degree intentional homicide, essentially acknowledging she committed all the elements of the offense. But she also pleaded not guilty due to mental illness or defect, setting up the trial on her mental status.