The news: Two preteen girls were charged with attempted first-degree homicide in Wisconsin on Tuesday. Despite being only 12, both girls are being tried as adults, and face up to 60 years of jail time.
Why? According to court documents, the girls lured their 12-year-old friend to the woods for a game of hide and seek. There, either one or both of the girls stabbed the victim 19 times, missing a major artery near her heart by only a millimeter. The girls charged with the assault wanted to kill their victim in order to prove that a mythical horror figure from a popular Internet meme, Slenderman, was in fact real.
The teens eventually left the victim in the woods, where she was able to crawl to a nearby road and was later found by a passing bicyclist. The victim is said to be recovering and in stable condition.
(PolicyMic is not releasing the names of the two girls as the case may still be tried in juvenile court, where all proceedings are closed to the public.)
What exactly happened? The girls were extremely calculating, according to the court documents. On the night of May 30, they invited their middle school classmate over for a sleepover, where they intended to stab her in the throat while she was sleeping, then pull the covers over her and run away to Slenderman's mansion.
They changed their plans after spending the evening rollerskating and decided to act the following morning in the woods, where they held the young girl down by her arms and legs and stabbed her with a knife multiple times. Both girls were eventually picked up by law enforcement.
After the crime: Reflecting on the incident, one girl told the police, "It was weird that I didn't feel remorse." Reports allege that the same girl admitted that her intent was to "kill" the victim. She also asked officers if it was illegal to stab a person in self-defense. A police detective said that sometimes this was the case, and asked the girl if that was true in this instance. The girl replied, "No."
The other girl confessed that she was fully aware of the weight of murder, saying, "I believe it's ending a life and I regret it." But then she added, "The bad part of me wanted her to die, the good part of me wanted her to live."
Why did they do this? The reason behind the gruesome attack, the girls said, was to please a fictitious character from an Internet meme. Slenderman, as he is known, is a tall, thin man with tentacle-like arms and no face. In online legends, he is known for preying on young children and is prominently featured in the paranormal and horror fiction that heavily populates the site Creepypasta, where these two girls learned about the meme.
Creepypasta's moderator released a statement explaining that most users who read and populate the site's content understand the legend of Slenderman is not real. However, the two assailants were determined to please the character under the guise that he was real, and that he was the "leader" of Creepypasta.
"Most people don't watch Hannibal and turn into serial killers," the admin's statement reads. "I don't believe that it's the fault of Slenderman or horror writing in general that this happened. I remember reading scary stories and watching slasher movies when I was a child and young teenager and while they certainly gave me nightmares, they did not instill within me a desire to murder my friends."
What happens now? If the case is moved to a juvenile court, the girls could be released from custody at the age of 25. But district attorney Brad Schimel is adamant in holding them accountable for their crimes as adults.
This is suggestive of a common trend in the U.S. penal system, where the focus has moved away from rehabilitation and now concentrates on punishment. The two assailants will reappear in court on June 11. Schimel believes that the girls are innocent until proven guilty, but much of the American public seems to have already made up its mind.