A Wisconsin judge on Thursday ordered a 19-year-old woman released from a psychiatric hospital where she has been held for more than three years for her role in the nearly fatal stabbing of a friend, a crime she said was carried out to gain the favor of a sinister fictional character called Slender Man.
The 2014 attack, involving a pair of 12-year-old girls from Waukesha, Wis., who lured a 12-year-old friend to a park and stabbed her 19 times, shocked parents in the upper-middle-class suburb of Milwaukee.
In 2017 the woman, Anissa Weier, pleaded guilty to being a party to attempted second-degree intentional homicide and was sentenced to 25 years in the Winnebago Mental Health Institute. In March, she asked the court to release her from the institution.
At a hearing on Thursday, Judge Michael O. Bohren of Waukesha County Circuit Court, granted Ms. Weier’s request, agreeing with recommendations from three doctors who evaluated her and said that she did not pose a threat to herself or others.
But the judge ordered Ms. Weier back to the institution while Wisconsin officials create her release plan. Her next court date is scheduled for Sept. 10. A lawyer for Ms. Weier did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment.
At the hearing, Judge Bohren acknowledged the gravity of the crime that Ms. Weier and another friend, Morgan Geyser, committed in 2014, when they and the victim were all sixth graders at Horning Middle School in Waukesha.
It “may still make people tremble because it was such a terrible thing to happen,” the judge said, “not only just the physical assault but that it happened among friends who were kids.”
In 2014, Ms. Weier and Ms. Geyser lured the victim, Payton Leutner, into the woods where Ms. Geyser stabbed her 19 times with a kitchen knife as Ms. Weier urged her on. “Anissa told her to lie down so she wouldn’t lose blood so quickly, and told her to be quiet,” Ms. Geyser had testified. “And we left.”
Ms. Leutner managed to crawl out of the woods and find an adult. It took months for her to recover from her injuries, and doctors said one of the stab wounds came within a millimeter of hitting an artery, which would have killed her.
After their arrests, Ms. Weier and Ms. Geyser said they stabbed Ms. Leutner because they wanted to please Slender Man, a fictional character generally depicted as a tall, shadowy figure with a blank face. The girls said they believed that Slender Man was real and lived in a mansion in the woods in northern Wisconsin, and that by killing Ms. Leutner, they would become his “proxies.”
In 2018, Ms. Geyser was sentenced to 40 years in a psychiatric hospital.
The origins of Slender Man, considered one of the internet’s best-known urban legends, can be traced to 2009, when images were posted on an online forum devoted to fake paranormal pictures. Images of the character circulated online and the legend grew. Some depicted Slender Man with tentacles. Others showed him with powers of mind control.
Other than her role in Ms. Leutner’s stabbing, Judge Bohren said on Thursday, Ms. Weier “had a clean mental health history, if you will.” Currently, Ms. Weier is “functioning very well” at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute, the judge said, citing reports from doctors who had examined her.
Ms. Weier, who obtained her high school degree and plans to attend college, has told the court she plans to live with her father upon her release and look for part-time work, the judge said.
On Thursday evening, a woman who answered the telephone number listed for Ms. Leutner declined to comment on Ms. Weier’s pending release.