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MILWAUKEE – A Wisconsin appeals court on Wednesday ruled that two 12-year old girls, who tried killing their friend in a bid to please ‘Slender Man’, a make-believe internet monster with a cult-like following, could be tried as adults and face up to 45 years in prison in the attempted homicide case pending against them.

The girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, have been accused of luring a third friend, Payton Leutner, into the woods near Geyser’s suburban Milwaukee home and stabbing her 19 times. According to authorities, the girls then left Leutner for dead, but she managed to drag herself to a road where she was rescued by a bicyclist.

Geyser and Weier have each been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, which, in Wisconsin, means their cases have to originate in adult court before they are moved to juvenile court. The girls’ lawyers have tried to move their cases to a juvenile court but have been frequently denied.

In September of 2015, a county court judge stayed the girls’ cases so an appeals court could determine whether they would be charged as juveniles or adults. On Wednesday, the appeals court ruled that the girls could be charged as adults, finding “it…reasonable to try both girls as adults,” according to the Associated Press.

If the now-teens are convicted in juvenile court, their sentences could be up to three years in a juvenile facility and supervised release when they turn 18. But if they are convicted in adult court, the girls could face up to 45 years in prison.

The horrific crime of the then pre-teen girls, now 13 and 14, prompted a national discussion over the effect the internet when it happened in May 2014, since Slender Man, the fictional internet character, is what inspired the two girls to commit the crime.

Slender Man started as a meme on the Something Awful website in 2009. Fictional tales of him abducting and torturing children began to surface online and the fictional monster developed a cult-like following. The two bespectacled girls, now in custody, told police that they learnt about Slender Man on a website called “Creepypasta Wiki,’’ which they frequented regularly.

Soon enough, the girls had fallen so deep into this grim fantasy world that they thought they’d be rewarded in real life for sacrificing a human to please Slender Man.  They told authorities that they believed Slender Man was real and they wanted to appease him and become one of his “proxies.” They also expressed the fear that the mythical figure would kill their families if they refused to kill in his name.

Authorities says this fear is what prompted the girls to murder.

On May 31 of 2014, after a sleepover at Geyser’s house, the three girls were playing hide and seek at a nearby park when authorities say Geyser and Weier attacked—one of the girls pinned Leutner down as the other stabbed her repeatedly, including at least two wounds that hit major arteries and another that just missed the girl’s heart.

After the girls’ arrests, and the grisly dark details of their alleged crime emerged, law enforcement officials began speaking out about the power the internet has over young people.

Shortly after the stabbing, in an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune titled “How Kids Fall Into The Internet’s ‘Black Hole,’” Retired FBI agent John Egelhof told the publication, “The Internet is just this black hole that kids can fall into for a variety of reasons. Kids have a secret world that we don’t know about. That secret world is far more sinister than ours when we were young. It’s a problem we as a society have to face.”