One of two preteens accused of stabbing a classmate 19 times to please a fictional horror character was ordered Friday to receive treatment rather than stand trial, based on doctors' testimony that she claims to see and have conversations with things others cannot - including unicorns and a Harry Potter villain.
Judge Michael Bohren ordered the 12-year-old girl evaluated and treated either in a hospital or in a juvenile detention centre, where she currently is being held. Doctors have a year to get the girl to a point where she can help with her defence and go to trial. If they can't, she could be held at a treatment centre.
According to court documents, the girls plotted for months to kill their friend to curry favour 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.
Dr Kenneth Robbins, a psychiatrist hired by the girl's defence attorney, testified that the girl believes she can communicate telepathically with Slender Man and was more worried about offending the spectre than going to prison.
"If she says the wrong thing, if she somehow upsets Slender Man, not only hers, but her family's lives, could be in danger," Robbins explained.
Dr Brooke Lundbohm, a court-appointed psychologist, said the girl described Slender Man as "a person she has a strong bond with, she idolises and believes to be real."
Both testified that the girl also believes she can see and hear other fictional beings, including unicorns and characters from the Harry Potter and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.
"For her, these are real characters," Robbins said. "She sees them and they have discussions back and forth."
The doctors said the girl has a tendency to burst into laughter for no reason, and Lundbohm described her squatting on her chair and bouncing during an exam. The girl also told both doctors that she had "Vulcan mind control," an element in the Star Trek series.
The doctors said the girl's medical and school records did not indicate any mental health or behavioural problems. But Lundbohm said that when she spoke to the girl's parents, they recalled her being fascinated with fictional characters and trying to convince her father that Slender Man was real.
The girl's parents cried silently as Lundbohm testified that the girl's teachers described her as artistic and bright, and eccentric but well-behaved.
Defence attorney Anthony Cotton said after the hearing that the girl had not received any treatment or medication since her arrest, but that would change with Bohren's order. Robbins testified that he believed the girl could be helped with counseling and medication, but a more firm diagnosis was needed.
Bohren scheduled a November 12 hearing to get an update on the girl's condition. Also Friday, he scheduled the second girl for a September 17 hearing, where prosecutors will present evidence and ask the judge to send her to trial.
Wisconsin law requires anyone age 10 or older to be charged as adults in severe crimes. The Associated Press is not naming the girls because both of their attorneys have said they will try to get the cases moved to juvenile court.
The two girls attacked the 12-year-old victim in a wooded Waukesha park after a May 30 sleepover at the home of the girl now going to treatment. Once the attackers left, the victim crawled from the woods to a road where a passing bicyclist found her. Doctors later told police the girl had narrowly escaped death; the knife just missed a major artery near her heart.
The child has since been released from the hospital and is recovering at home.