Morgan Geyser, the teen charged with repeatedly stabbing a classmate in 2014 as a way of appeasing the fictional character Slender Man, pleaded guilty by reason of mental disease or defect on Thursday as part of deal with prosecutors.
The plea was entered about a week before her trial was set to begin, essentially ending a years-long case that has captivated the nation.
Geyser, now 15, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the attack in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in exchange for prosecutors agreeing that she is not criminally liable due to her mental illness.
Judge Michael Bohren accepted the plea agreement, in which Geyser will avoid jail and will instead be committed to a state psychiatric hospital for up to 40 years. She was diagnosed with early-onset schizophrenia in 2014.
"It's been a tragic experience for everyone," Geyser's attorney, Donna Kuchler, said at a news conference last week after the agreement was announced. "Our hearts go out to the victim and her family. And we're very grateful that the district attorney's office gave this case the considering it deserves."
Geyser and her friend Anissa Weier are accused of stabbing their classmate Payton Leutner 19 times to appease Slender Man, a kind of internet boogeyman who is often photoshopped into the background of existing images. All three girls were 12 at the time of the attack.
Prosecutors argued that the girls lured Leutner into the woods with them, where they then stabbed her.
When the judge asked Geyser on Thursday to describe what happened in 2014, Geyer said while choking back tears, "I hurt Bella." (Leutern's nickname was Bella).
"I stabbed her with the knife," she said. "Everywhere ...19 times."
In an August court hearing, Weier testified that when the girls reached the woods, Geyser asked whether she should stab Leutner.
"I wanted it to be over with, so I said 'Go berserk, do what you have to do,'" Weier said, adding that Geyser then jumped on top of Leutner, stabbing her repeatedly.
Prosecutors argued that Geyser and Weier planned on killing Leutner for months, as a way of becoming proxies of Slender Man — who is often described as a tall, faceless, black-and-white figure wearing a dark suit with octopus-like tentacles. The girls said they believed that if they didn’t kill someone, Slender Man would hurt them or their families.
"I believed if I didn't go through with the plan, Slender Man would come and attack and kill myself, my friends, and my family, those that I care about most," Weier said in an August court hearing.
Leutner, who survived the attack, was able to crawl out of the woods to a path where she was found by a bicyclist.
Earlier this year a spokesperson for Lautner’s family issued a statement to People magazine saying that the 15-year-old is thriving as a high school freshman, taking Advanced Placement classes.
“Today, Payton is a strong young woman who is excelling in school and doing many things that a teenager would do with her family and friends,” the spokesperson said.
Last month, Weier pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree homicide, just weeks before her trial was set to begin. Following the trial, the jury accepted her insanity plea, finding that she was not legally responsible.