Last modified on Wed 20 Sep 2017 17.09 BST
A Wisconsin state appeals court ruled on Wednesday that two girls accused of trying to kill their classmate in an attempt to please the fictional horror character Slender Man should be tried as adults.
The girls were 12 years old in 2014 when, investigators say, they lured 12-year-old Payton Leutner to a park in Waukesha, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee, and stabbed her 19 times.
In a pair of rulings on Wednesday, the second district appeals court affirmed a lower court’s determination that it was reasonable to try both girls as adults. Citing the ruling last year, the appeals court said if the girls were found guilty in the juvenile system they would be released at age 18 with no supervision or mental health treatment. The girls, both 14 years old, could appeal against the rulings to the Wisconsin supreme court.
Kevin Osborne, the assistant Waukesha County district attorney, said he was pleased with the decisions, but declined further comment because he had not yet read them. Attorneys for the girls did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ruling also noted that the evidence showed the crime was not accidental or impulsive, but planned and extremely violent. Given the serious nature of the offense, it would not be appropriate for the trial to take place in juvenile court, the appeals court ruled.
The girls have been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide and if convicted could go to prison for up to 65 years. As juveniles, they could be incarcerated for up to three years then supervised until age 18.
Anyone 10 or older charged with first-degree attempted homicide is automatically considered an adult under Wisconsin law. But 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.
Experts testified that one of the girls has schizophrenia and an oppositional defiant disorder that requires long-term mental health treatment. The other girl has been diagnosed with a delusional disorder and a condition known as schizotypy, which a psychologist testified made her vulnerable to believing in Slender Man.
Slender Man is described in fictional stories as an unnaturally tall, thin, demon-like figure that lacks facial features. He is said to live in a mansion in a forest. Authorities say the girls intended to sacrifice Payton for Slender Man and hoped to live with him in that fictional home as a result.
According to a criminal complaint, the girls plotted for months before they lured Payton Leutner into a park in Waukesha, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee, and attacked her with a knife. 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, the girls left Payton for dead but 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 later.
Police captured the girls on the outskirts of the city that same day. They told investigators they planned to walk 300 miles to the Nicolet national forest, where they hoped to live as Slender Man’s servants in his mansion.
An HBO documentary on the case premiered at SXSW in March.