In 2014, two 12-year-old girls lured their best friend into the woods before stabbing her more than a dozen times—and leaving her for dead—in an attempt to satiate the internet horror meme Slender Man. Now, after spending the past three and a half years confined to a state facility, one of the attackers will be set free.
A Wisconsin judge ordered the release of Anissa Weier, now 19, on Thursday after ruling that she didn’t pose a threat to herself or others. Originally, Weier was sentenced to a 25-year stay at Wisconsin’s Winnebago Mental Health Institute back in 2017, after a jury agreed that she was mentally ill during the initial attack. Weier’s attorneys argued at the time that Weier earnestly believed that Slenderman would kill her family if she didn’t stab her classmate.
While the other assailant, Morgan Geyser, is still committed to a separate mental health facility for the maximum 40-year sentence, Weier began petitioning for her release in March of this year. Wisconsin’s state laws dictate that conditional release can be granted in cases where the convicted party wouldn’t pose a “significant risk of bodily harm to their well-being or to others,” if they’re let back on the street.
In a letter sent to the courts back in March, Weier argued that was the case. “I hate my actions May 31, 2014, but through countless hours of therapy, I no longer hate myself for them,” she wrote. “I have exhausted all the resources available to me at the Winnebago Mental Health Institution. If I am to become a productive member of society, I need to be part of society.”
Evidently, the county circuit judge overseeing her case, Michael Bohren, agreed. After reviewing her letter and the reports of three medical professionals that advocated for her early leave, Bohren said that the court couldn’t find “clear and convincing evidence” that the teen poses a significant threat to others or herself. But that doesn’t mean she’ll be going free immediately—Bohren’s order gave state officials 60 days to write up a conditional release plan for Weier, during which she’ll need to stay institutionalized until another hearing on September 10. And even after she’s actually set free, Weier will also be assigned Department of Health Services case managers to keep an eye on her until she’s 37 years old—the total span of her commitment.
Even with extra monitoring, there’s doubtlessly going to be people uneasy with Weier’s early release. The victim of the attack, then-12-year-old Payton Leutner, barely survived her stab wounds, and state prosecutors have argued that an attack like this could happen again since Weier is still susceptible to “dangerous influences.”
“What assurance do we have that she will not do this again, either for a thrill or to please a new friend—and because of her situation real, appropriate, friends will be hard to come by,” prosecutors wrote. “Instead she seems to attract people with myriad psychological issues of their own. At this time, she simply cannot safely be released.”