WAUKESHA, Wis. - Neighbors of two Wisconsin girls accused of stabbing a friend nearly to death say they're struggling to reconcile the allegations with what they know about the 12-year-olds and their upbringings.
Waukesha County prosecutors have charged the two girls in adult court with attempted homicide for allegedly stabbing a girl the same age in the woods. The girls told detectives they conspired for months to kill the other girl in hopes of pleasing Slenderman, a fictional character they read about on a horror website.
Most residents in their Waukesha neighborhood didn't want to talk to reporters Tuesday. They said they were still trying to wrap their minds around the allegations. But neighbors who did agree to talk said the girls came from good families and that the parents were responsible guardians who doted on their children.
Emily Edwards, 15, baby-sat one of the girls for about two years. She told The Associated Press the girl seemed to be a well-adjusted child who was never mean or violent. She said the girl never even picked on her younger brother, and if anything acted as a peacekeeper whenever others teased him.
"She was completely normal, nothing off about her. She was very social, friendly, outgoing," Emily said, "which is what makes this whole thing so weird."
Prosecutors say the two girls lured the victim into the woods Saturday and stabbed her 19 times, with one of the wounds coming within a millimeter of piercing a major artery near her heart.
The AP isn't naming either girl because their cases could end up in juvenile court, where proceedings are closed to the public. The victim is identified in court documents only by her initials.
Emily said that as far as the girl she baby-sat, she often saw her family laughing and smiling together. She described the girl's parents as "such nice people" who seem devoted to their two kids.
Paul Plotkin, another neighbor close to the father of one of the girls, said he was troubled by comments he's seen online suggesting the parents must have been absent, negligent, addicted to drugs or worse.
"Anyone who knows them knows these are good people, a normal middle-class family," said Plotkin, 44. "It just goes to show, no matter how hard you try to instill good morals, good values, things can still go wrong."
The two girls live in the same apartment complex, which has about a dozen buildings scattered in an open layout with leafy trees. About a dozen small children played on a small playground in the center of the complex Tuesday afternoon, as parents watched from a distance.
The other girl's family posted a note on their front door asking reporters to respect their privacy. One woman said she couldn't comment because the family asked her and other close friends not to talk to the media.
Another woman who lives three doors away said the family seems close-knit and sociable. Carolyn Nelson, a 71-year-old retiree, said whenever she runs into the family they're friendly and always ready to lend a hand.
"They're very nice. I can't say anything bad about them," she said. "I just feel sorry for the parents. I just don't know how they can handle this. It's just unbelievable."
Anthony Cotton, an attorney for one of the girls, said he would push to get her case transferred to juvenile court, where more social services and mental health treatment would be available.
"She's 12 and she has mental health issues," Cotton said. "There's no question that she needs to go to the hospital."
MADISON, Wis. - Two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who have been charged with stabbing and nearly killing a friend told investigators that they planned the slaying to curry favor with a fictional character whom they read about on a horror fiction website.
Here's a look at the character, called Slenderman, and the website police say the girls had been reading for months:
WHO IS SLENDERMAN?
Slenderman is a paranormal being who lurks near forests and absorbs, kills or carries off his victims. In some accounts, he targets children. He looks like a long-limbed, lean man in a black suit, but he has no face. In some accounts, he has tentacles protruding from his back.
Eric Knudsen of Florida created the character in response to a call for submissions from the online forum SomethingAwful, said Shira Chess, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia who has researched Slenderman's origins. Knudsen posted the first photos along with a fictional news story under the username Victor Surge on June 10, 2009. He did not respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.
Other writers, artists and programmers later created additional stories, movies and video games featuring Slenderman. Websites show what appear to be photographs of the character, lending it an air of authenticity.
"It feels real," Chess said. "A 12-year-old potentially isn't going to know the whole origin of the story."
WHAT IS CREEPY PASTA?
The girls told Wisconsin police that they read about Slenderman on the website creepypasta.wikia.com.
The site defines a creepypasta as "a short story posted on the Internet that is designed to unnerve and shock the reader."
Online communities have developed to distribute creepypastas and create new ones, said Chris Edmond, a writer who posts under the username MrCreepyPasta. The stories can attract large audiences; Edmond has 385,000 Facebook followers and 500,000 YouTube subscribers.
Edmond said sites dedicated to creepypastas are in no way meant to incite violence. Instead, he said, the goal is to be creative and foster the horror genre.
WHO RUNS THIS WEBSITE?
Creepypasta.wikia.com is part of a larger site, wikia.com, which includes 2,700 wikis devoted to fan fiction. A wiki allows groups of users to add, delete, edit and share information.
An administrator posted on creepypasta.wikia.com Tuesday to say that all stories on the site are fiction and not meant to advocate or endorse killing or other violence. The post described the stabbing in Wisconsin as "an isolated incident, and does not represent or attribute the Creepypasta community as a whole."
"There is a line of between fiction and reality, and it is up to you to realize where the line is," the administrator wrote. "We are a literature site, not a crazy satanic cult."
Attempts to reach site operators by phone and email were unsuccessful.
SHOULD CHILDREN BE READING THIS?
Creepypasta sites aren't aimed at children, but they attract thousands of readers younger than 18. Edmond said about one-third of his audience on Facebook and YouTube is between the ages of 13 and 17.
Joanne Cantor, a retired University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who studied the effect of media on children, said stories such as Slenderman can have a greater effect because children can interact with the tale by viewing pictures, watching videos or posting their own versions of stories or comments.
"It could very well be that they were confused about reality" in the stabbing case, Cantor said.
She recommended parents talk to their children about how to determine whether things they see on the Internet are real.
"It should say to parents, don't underestimate what's going on in your kids' media use," Cantor said.