Psychologist: Shared Delusion Led to Slender Man Stabbing - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Psychologist: Shared Delusion Led to Slender Man Stabbing

"If adults have trouble distinguishing fake news, 12-year-olds will, because their brains can't yet discern or analyze as well"

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    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.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017)

    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.

    Drivers Arrested After Crash and Brawl on Racetrack

    [NATL] Drivers Arrested After Crash and Brawl on Racetrack

    Spectators at the Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Indiana, got more than the race they bargained for when a crash led to a fist fight and eventual arrest of two racecar drivers on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017)

    "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.

    Fighters Surrender as Syrian Forces Clear Out ISIS Base

    [NATL] Fighters Surrender as Syrian Forces Clear Out ISIS Stronghold

    Islamic State fighters surrendered to U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic forces after the last remaining strongholds were freed from the extremist group's grasp Tuesday, restoring the city of Raqqa to the SDF.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017)

    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.

    Geyser's trial is due to begin Oct. 9. She has also pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease.