First came three words: "I'm so sorry." Then 12-year-old Morgan Geyser sunk a knife into her best friend's body a total of 19 times as 12-year-old Anissa Weier urged her on. Payton Lautner, also 12, amazingly survived the attempted killing as media coverage focused on the fictional character, Slender Man, the assailants say inspired it. What slipped under the radar was a haunting tale of mental illness, Kathleen Hale writes in a 10,000-word feature at Hazlitt.com. As Morgan's parents later learned, Morgan had told Anissa about hearing voices in her head and seeing a towering, faceless shadow lurking behind her. After both girls were arrested, doctors testified that Morgan had been having hallucinations since age 3, though her schizophrenia remained undiagnosed. A jury would later decide that Morgan's illness made Anissa "insane by proxy," Hale writes.
But in Wisconsin, where the crime took place, many consider verdicts of not guilty by reason of insanity to be "soft on crime," even in the case of 12-year-old girls, Hale writes. That may be related to a state law requiring children as young as 10 to be prosecuted as adults in homicide cases. Introduced in the mid-1990s, it's based on the since-debunked theory of the "Super Predator," suggesting crime rises if juvenile criminals aren't treated harshly, though research shows "children are far less likely to commit new crimes after being charged and sentenced in juvenile court," Hale writes. In a way, the "Super Predator" is "the grown-up's version of the Slender Man," Hale adds, "a terrifying force that must be stopped at all costs; a terrifying force that does not actually exist." Click for the full piece. (Read more Slender Man stories.)