Wis. stabbing at odds with girls' upbringing, neighbors say

WAUKESHA, Wis. - Neighbors of two Wisconsin girls accused of stabbing a friend 19 times allegedly to please a fictional character they read about online say they're struggling to reconcile the allegations with what they know about the 12-year-olds and their upbringings.

Prosecutors have charged the two girls in adult court with attempted homicide for allegedly stabbing a girl the same age in the woods in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb. 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 which features short stories designed to "unnerve and shock the reader."

Most residents in their 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.

CBS News 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.

The other girl's family posted a note on their front door asking reporters to respect their privacy.

Anthony Cotton, an attorney for one of the girls, said Tuesday that his client shows signs of mental illness and should be hospitalized.

Cotton said a judge rejected his request Monday to have the girl transferred to a mental health facility, but he will renew that request when she returns to court next week.

"She's 12 and she has mental health issues," Cotton said. "There's no question that she needs to go to the hospital."

Cotton has also said he will push to get his client's case transferred to juvenile court, where more social services and mental health treatment would be available.

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, who is running for attorney general, called adult court a starting point for the case but said one could argue the girls deserve a harsher punishment than confinement until age 25, the maximum in the juvenile system.

"I realize they're only 12," said Schimel. "But so is the victim, and she came very close to not seeing her 13th birthday."

Juvenile arrests for homicide are relatively rare. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, of about 9.3 million juvenile arrests between 2007 and 2011 only 5,640 - less than half a percent - were for homicide or manslaughter. Forty-one of those arrested for homicide or manslaughter were girls.

Wisconsin is one of 29 states in which juveniles of a certain age are automatically charged as adults, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wisconsin law requires homicide or attempted homicide charges to be filed in adult court if the suspect is at least 10; lawmakers created the provision in 1996 to counter a rise in youths involved with gangs, drugs and guns.

Georgia, Illinois, New York and Oklahoma set the age for some automatic adult charges at 13.

Cotton said it could be months before a judge decides whether to move his client's case. Along with the girl's age and mental health, a judge would likely consider her family structure, the severity of the crime and any previous criminal record.

He said his client had no previous contact with police and her parents saw no warning signs. But, he added, things that might be troubling in an adult, such as make believe, wouldn't be in a child.