A 12-year-old girl accused of stabbing a friend in a quest to please a spooky fictional character will have a mental evaluation, while an attorney for a second girl also charged in the crime said Wednesday that he could raise the issue of competency later.
The girls appeared in court for a minutes-long hearing that would typically attract little attention but in this case drew dozens of journalists and others to Waukesha, a community west of Milwaukee. The girls' families sat silently as a court commissioner agreed to appoint a doctor for one and scheduled their next court dates for July 2. One girl's father cried.
According to court documents, the girls plotted for months to kill their friend to curry favor with Slender Man, a character in horror stories they read online. They told investigators they believed Slender Man had a mansion in a Wisconsin forest and they planned to go live with him after the slaying.
One of the girls hosted the other two at a May 30 slumber party to celebrate her birthday. The next morning, the two girls attacked the victim in a wooded Waukesha park. One told investigators that she told the victim to lie down and be quiet after the stabbing so that she would lose blood more slowly. The girl said she hoped to convince the victim to be quiet so the victim would not draw attention to them and would die.
Once the attackers left, the 12-year-old victim crawled from the woods to a road where a passing bicyclist found her. Doctors later told police the girl had narrowly escaped death because the knife missed a major artery near her heart by just one millimeter. The child was released from a hospital last week and is recovering at home. Police have not identified her, and her parents asked friends to keep her name secret.
Anthony Cotton, the defense attorney for one of the girls, asked the Court Commissioner Laura Lau to have a doctor evaluate her to see if she was competent to stand trial. Lau agreed and ordered the doctor's report kept secret.
"We have an obligation to raise competency when we have reason to doubt it," Cotton said afterward, adding that he couldn't go into detail. He said previously that he believed his client showed signs of mental illness.
The other girl's attorney said he is not raising competency as an issue right now but could later. Public defender Joseph Smith Jr. said his focus now is getting information from prosecutors to help prepare for a preliminary hearing.
Handcuffed and dressed in blue jail clothes, the girls appeared rumpled, with tousled hair. They did not speak during separate court appearances, and their parents left the courthouse without talking to reporters.
Smith said he knew the victim's injuries were severe, and both he and Cotton apologized on behalf of the girls' families.
"I join my client and my client's family in wishing the victim a swift recovery," Smith said.
Cotton said his client's parents expressed remorse every time he spoke with them.
"This is a tragedy for everybody," he said.
The girls have been charged as adults with first-degree attempted homicide and are being held at a juvenile detention center on $500,000 cash bond. They face up to 65 years in prison if convicted.
Cotton declined to describe how his client was doing but said anyone incarcerated that young "is going to have a hard time."
Wisconsin law requires prosecutors to charge children 10 and older as adults in severe cases. Public defender Samuel Benedict, who works with Smith, said they would try to have their client's case moved to juvenile court. Cotton also has said he would like his client's case transferred.
The odds are against them, however. A 2013 review of the court system found that of approximately 240 people under 17 charged as adults in 2012, only seven had their cases moved to juvenile court, Wisconsin Supreme Court spokesman Tom Sheehan said. The court system does not track such cases statewide on an annual basis.
The Associated Press is not naming the girls while there is a possibility their cases will be sent to juvenile court.