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Slenderman Stabbing Teen Granted Conditional Release

State health officials have two months to give the court a release plan for the teen, who has been detained in a mental health facility since 2017 after pleading out of trial for the attempted murder of her friend.

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CN) --- One of two Wisconsin teenagers who attempted to murder their friend in 2014 on the orders of a fictional online boogeyman known as Slenderman was granted conditional release from a mental health facility on Thursday.

Anissa Weier, 19, was found by Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren to have satisfied the factors for her release from the Winnebago Mental Health Institution, where she has been held since being found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect of second-degree attempted intentional homicide in 2017. She was sentenced to 25 years of commitment in a mental health institution for her role in a violent, bizarre crime that attracted global headlines.

On the morning of May 31, 2014, Weier and Morgan Geyser stabbed their friend Payton Leutner in the woods near Geyser's home in Waukesha while playing hide-and-seek after the three 12-year-old girls had a sleepover together.

The girls believed they had to commit the murder to prove their loyalty as "proxies" to Slenderman, a cryptic internet character that originated as an online meme in 2009 and soon circulated on social media and horror forums. The tall, thin, black-clad and faceless character's mythology includes stalking the woods, kidnapping children and paranormal mental abilities to cause amnesia and provoke paranoid behavior.

Geyser and Weier were found by sheriff's deputies near the freeway hours after the attack, saying they were walking to Slenderman's mansion in the Wisconsin Northwoods about 300 miles away. Leutner was found the same day crawling from the woods toward a nearby road in Waukesha with 19 stab wounds, which she survived after several surgeries and a weeklong hospital stay.

Geyser, who initially came up with the idea for the murder and devised the plan with Weier months ahead of time, was given 40 years' confinement at the Winnebago institution in 2018. A state appeals court upheld the adult sentence in August 2020 and a split Wisconsin Supreme Court denied her petition for review of that decision in January of this year.

Weier applied for conditional release in November 2020. Her attorneys -- Maura McMahon and Joseph Smith, both of Waukesha -- submitted a letter arguing for release on her behalf in April, making the case that Weier has been compliant and forthcoming in her treatment, no longer suffers from psychotic or delusional disorders on the opinion of three psychologists who examined her and is ready for reentry into the community, at which point she plans to live with her father in Pewaukee, get a part-time job and pursue a college education.

The 19-year-old has handled knives, a bandsaw and other electric power tools while participating in a workshop at the mental health facility without any intimation of a threat of violence, her attorneys pointed out, and she has had a roommate for over a year without any incident.

Assistant Waukesha District Attorney Kevin Osborne filed a letter in the spring arguing the opposite, pointing to the horrific details of a crime committed at such a young age and offering that proof that Weier is no longer delusional omits the fact that no one saw her as delusional in the first place before the attack, which she readily took part in along with Geyser.

McMahon and Smith appeared with Weier in a Waukesha courtroom on Thursday, and Osborne appeared with Deputy District Attorney Ted Szczupakiewicz on behalf of the state, though neither side presented additional arguments.

Ultimately, Bohren came down on the side of Weier after weighing multiple factors, which in the end add up to the point that "a terrible offense occurred" but "what happens afterward? Can the person be released safely into the community?"

Despite participating in the horrendous, premeditated attempted murder of a friend -- a crime whose ripples affect not just the people involved, but the community at large -- Bohren seemed encouraged by Weier's progress in treatment and all of her doctors' positive opinions in favor of her release, and believed that she was truly remorseful of her actions.

The judge also took stock of the fact that the shared-delusional disorder Weier was diagnosed with has passed, according to mental health examiners, though she is currently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and major depressive disorders but she takes no anti-psychotic medications. He found no clear and convincing evidence that Weier is a violent danger to herself or others going forward.

Slenderman's influence over the two girls also influenced Bohren's decision, as he noted the crime involved "kids believing in something unrealistic and making dangerous acts because of it."

Subsequent to Bohren's order on Tuesday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has 60 days to submit a release plan for Weier ahead of a hearing on Sept. 10 for the court to approve that plan. Weier will remain at the Winnebago institution until that point, and if granted release she will remain under close supervision by both the health department and Department of Corrections for another 18 years, until she is 37.

Speaking with members of the press after Bohren's decision, McMahon said Weier was hopeful and happy, echoing the judge's assertion that the goal now is about "setting up a life plan" for the young woman going forward.

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