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Mental illness often undiagnosed and untreated in juvenile suspects

The sheer number of recent violent U.S. juvenile crimes have become the center of much heartache, outrage and debate. As politicians argue over gun laws, schools take steps to protect against possible violent acts and Minnesota parents worry every time their children are out of sight; the serious mental and emotional problems suffered by many U.S. juveniles continue to go undiagnosed and untreated.

When news reports started coming out about a 12-year-old girl who had allegedly been stabbed 19 times by two friends of the same age, Americans were shocked and horrified. While most 12-year-old girls enjoy going to the movies, hanging out with friends and still being kids; the two 12-year-old suspects had become consumed by a mythical Internet character known as Slender Man.

Under Wisconsin state law, the girls will be tried as adults and, if convicted, could spend the next 65 years in prison. The attorney for one of the girls recently requested that his client undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine her mental competency. An attorney for the other 12-year-old suspect said he too may request such an evaluation at a later date. Both attorneys plan to request that their clients be tried as juveniles. However, state law dictates that individuals over the age of 10 who commit serious crimes be tried as adults.

Speaking to the media, an older brother of one of the girls commented how, despite seeming like a completely normal 12-year-old, his sister was not able to discern the difference "between dreams and reality." Upon being interviewed by police, one of the suspects described how the girls planned the attack on their friend for months. The horrific plan was devised to impress and appease the mythical Slender Man with whom both had become obsessed. The 12-year-old said the two often discussed their plans on the school bus using code words and referring to the actual violent act as "stabby, stab stab."

Upon closer examination it's likely there were additional clues related to the young girls' warped mental states and unhealthy fascination with the dark fantasy character. Juveniles that suffer from mental illness are often deemed incompetent to stand trial. In this case, it appears as though the young girls truly believed the Slender Man character was real and both lacked the capacity to understand the ramifications of their actions.

Source: The Daily Mail, "Mental evaluation ordered for one of the 12-year-old girls who stabbed friend and left her for dead in sacrifice to 'Slender Man' as the pair remain in prison," June 11, 2014The Daily Mail, "'Stabby, stab, stab': Two girls, 12, who knifed schoolmate 19 times used code words to plan horrific 'Slender Man' attack," Will Payne, June 6, 2014 

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Juvenile Criminal
Defense Strategies

Christa Jacqueline Groshek
© 2012 Aspatore Books from
Thomson Reuters Westlaw.
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