WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — A defense expert testified Tuesday that one of two Wisconsin girls charged as adults with trying to kill a friend to please a fictional horror character has a very low risk of future criminal behavior and a high likelihood of success in treatment.
The testimony came at the start of a two-day hearing in which the 13-year-old’s attorneys are trying to show she should be transferred to juvenile court for plotting with a 12-year-old to kill Payton Leutner, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The 12-year-old Leutner survived 19 stab wounds last May at a Waukesha park.
Police say the girls charged in the attack claimed they wanted to win favor with Slender Man, a character they believed could kill them or their families.
Forensic psychologist Anthony Jurek testified he saw no signs in the 13-year-old of personality disorders that would cause anti-social behavior. Rather, he said, she seemed like a girl struggling with her parents’ divorce and the move to middle school where she struggled for peer acceptance.
Jurek said that made her ripe to follow someone like the 12-year-old, a friend she feared losing. But he said the 13-year-old’s high intelligence and verbal skills would likely help her succeed in therapy.
“I think she wants to get better, but it’s going to be a scary process for her,” he said.
The defense also called on juvenile corrections officials to testify about services available at Copper Lake, a secure facility in northern Wisconsin, which are more extensive than those at the Washington County facility where the girls have been held for the past year.
Shelley Hagan, director of the state office of juvenile offender review, said preparations for release of juveniles from Copper Lake focus on a plan to return them to their families or the community. For girls convicted as adults, the staff mostly deals with adult corrections officials concerning which prison or other facility will take a girl when she turns 18.
Nicole Sakac, manager of the girls’ current detention center, testified the 13-year-old has been a model resident. She said the 13-year-old, unlike the 12-year-old who’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia, shows no continuing belief in Slender Man or other fictional characters.
There was no indication when Circuit Judge Michael Bohren would rule on a defense motion to declare the underlying law that put the case in adult court unconstitutional.
Wisconsin law requires children as young as 10 to be charged as adults for some crimes. The burden then falls to them to prove the case belongs in juvenile court. As adults, the girls face up to 60 years in prison; as juveniles they would remain under court supervision until age 18.
The 12-year-old’s hearing is set for next month.