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15-year-old Wis. girl ordered to 40 years of mental health treatment in Slender Man stabbing death

Slender Man / Wikimedia Commons

WAUKESHA, Wis. - Morgan Geyser was ordered committed Thursday to 40 years of mental health treatment and monitoring in the Slender Man stabbing case and for the foreseeable future will remain at a secure state hospital in Oshkosh.

Circuit Judge Michael Bohren opted for the maximum commitment term after hearing from experts who suggested Geyser, 15, could receive more effective treatment for her schizophrenia somewhere other than the Winnebago Mental Health Institute, where she is housed solely with adults who have committed crimes.

"We can't forget what actually happened," Bohren said. "It was a premeditated murder" that, but for serendipity, didn't result in death.

Geyser's attorney suggested 25 years of monitoring until Geyser is 40 would be appropriate, given her stabilization and the full remission of mental illness symptoms.

Before the judge's ruling, Geyser tearfully apologized to her victim, whose family was in court, and said she hoped the girl is doing well. Then she put her head down on the table as Bohren began explaining his decision.

Geyser was 12 when she and Anissa Weier were charged as adults in the sensational crime. They had plotted the murder of their friend and sixth-grade classmate Payton Leutner, they told police, because they feared Slender Man, a fictional internet boogeyman, would kill them or their families if they didn't carry out the crime.

Leutner survived 19 stab wounds and was discovered by a passing bicyclist after she had crawled to the edge of woods at a Waukesha park where the attack occurred.

After lengthy but unsuccessful efforts to have their cases transferred to juvenile court, both girls struck plea deals in which they were convicted but found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Forty years is the maximum prison term for Geyser's underlying offense - attempted first-degree intentional homicide, as party to a crime - and is also the limit of her commitment.

But being committed to the custody of the Department of Health Services does not mean a subject must remain in a secure hospital the entire time. Geyser could petition for conditional release every six months, if treating staff support the move. But Bohren - or a successor judge - would have to approve any changes.

Her attorney, Anthony Cotton, said after the hearing he planned to make such a request as soon as the law allows.

Geyser has already been at Winnebago for more than a year after she was committed for mental health treatment by a different judge in a separate civil proceeding. Within several weeks of her arrest, she had been diagnosed with early-onset schizophrenia but wasn't able to get treatment at the West Bend juvenile jail where she was being held on $500,000 bail.

Jessica Andrews, the director of forensic services at Winnebago and Geyser's main psychotherapist, testified Thursday that if Geyser were there only on what's known as a Chapter 51 commitment, or had been found not guilty by reason of mental disease as a juvenile, she could be housed with other teens at Winnebago. Because she was prosecuted as an adult, she can't.

Andrews said that since last fall, after Geyser's psychotropic medications were adjusted in the spring, she has not shown any symptoms of psychosis and is open about treatment, never resists taking her medication and has never been violent or aggressive.

Geyser's family supports all treatment, Andrews said, and visits her two or three times a week. Geyser gets educational instruction for about 3 { hours a week, can make phone calls and write letters, but has no internet access.

A psychiatrist who has seen Geyser four times, Kenneth Robbins, testified by video from California that she has made dramatic progress in treatment, has become insightful and wants to continue her medications to reduce the risk she might ever become dangerously psychotic again.

Robbins said socializing with peers would be an important part of her treatment now. He said if that were to occur, it should be in a secured setting, at least for now.

Kent Berney, another psychiatrist who interviewed and tested Geyser twice last year and reviewed her extensive treatment records, said he felt she did not present a substantial risk to harm herself or others. A key factor, he said, was how much she now recognizes her illness, her need for medication and the negative ramifications if her symptoms return.

A psychologist who testified for the state said she could not support conditional release. Brooke Lundbohm said in October that Geyser couldn't complete their interview because she broke down as Lundbohm challenged her assumptions about how she could live outside the hospital.

Lundbohm said Geyser thought she could live with her family and trust her mother to recognize any problems.

Lundbohm also said Geyser told her she had heard as recently as a few weeks earlier the voice of Maggie, a hallucinatory voice she had been hearing for years.

In December, Bohren imposed the maximum commitment length of 25 years on Weier, whom a jury had found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Her maximum was 25 years because, as part of her deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree intentional homicide.

She also agreed that if the jury accepted her defense, she would not seek conditional release from Winnebago for at least three years.

Before Weier's sentencing, Payton Leutner's mother, Stacie, submitted a written statement about the crime's enduring impact on their family. It indicated that Payton wanted the defendants to get help.

The case drew immediate worldwide attention and became the subject of an HBO documentary, "Beware the Slenderman." The Leutner family gave exclusive access to their story to ABC, which aired two episodes of "20/20" about the case and plans a third on Friday night.

On this latest episode, the defendants' mothers, one of several forensic psychologists involved in the case, a defense attorney and one of the prosecutors will appear, many interviewed by host David Muir, anchor of "ABC World News Tonight."

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