Logan • A 17-year-old boy who helped plot the shooting of a 14-year-old girl in February pleaded guilty Tuesday to reduced charges.
Jayzon Decker admitted that he plotted the death of Deserae Turner, along with his friend 17-year-old Colter Danny Peterson, who has admitted pulling the trigger.
Decker spoke quietly Tuesday as he pleaded guilty in 1st District Court to first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice. Aggravated robbery and other obstruction-of-justice charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal.
After the boy pleaded guilty to the charges, Turner left the courtroom in tears, leaning on her parents to help guide her.
It was an emotional day for Turner and her family, Cache County Attorney James Swink told reporters after the hearing. To hear someone who she thought was a friend admit such a betrayal, the county attorney said, was difficult.
“This is a horrific act,” he said. “The sense of betrayal to Deserae, you can’t put words to that. How terrible it is to have two friends betray you and commit a terrible act on her is just awful for her.”
But now that both boys have pleaded guilty to charges — Peterson took a plea deal in October, admitting to aggravated attempted murder and robbery — Swink said Turner and her family can close this chapter and focus on her healing, without the worry of a trial or having to testify about the Feb. 16 shooting.
The girl’s father, Matt Turner, said Tuesday that he felt the plea deal was the “best scenario” for his daughter.
“Today was a good day,” he said after the hearing. “These boys admitting their guilt was the right thing to do.”
Decker faces a possible sentence of 15 years to life at the Utah State Prison for the attempted murder charge, and an additional term of up to 15 years for obstructing justice. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 7 by Judge Brian Cannell.
Peterson faces similar penalties when he is sentenced Feb. 1.
Decker admitted in court Tuesday that he and his friend lured the 14-year-old girl to a Smithfield canal that February evening, under the guise of selling her a pocketknife. The original plan was to slit the girl’s throat with knives each boy brought, according to a case summary read aloud in court by Swink. But, ultimately, Peterson fired a single bullet into the back of Turner’s head, at the encouragement of Decker.
After the shooting, the boys took cash and electronics from the girl’s backpack before leaving her in a ditch.
Turner’s parents reported her missing after she did not return home from school. She was found later that evening by two women who were searching for her near the canal, according to preliminary hearing testimony.
The fact that the young girl was found alive in the cold, Matt Turner said, was the first of many miracles they’ve experienced this past year. The girl was hospitalized for nine weeks before returning to her home in the town of Amalga to recover.
As a result of the shooting, Turner suffers from partial blindness, as well as paralysis and weakening on the left side of her body, according to her family.
A side effect from frostbite after the shooting has left her with continuing sores on her feet, Swink said, and she suffers from daily chronic headaches. The bullet remains lodged in her head.
Matt Turner said his daughter is working hard every day to continue to recover from her injuries.
“We recently added a service dog to our family,” the father said, his voice thick with emotion. “This cute little puppy brings Des joy, and she loves training him.”
The father thanked those who wished his young daughter well, who hosted fundraisers and gave generously so the girl could receive ongoing treatment.
“This has been very hard,” he said. “But even through our darkest days, we have seen the good in people.”
Because of their ages, the two defendants were initially charged in juvenile court with the crimes. But after hearing evidence of the crimes and more about the teens, a juvenile court judge moved the case to the adult court system.
The teens now face the same penalties for the crimes as if they were adults.
The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify juveniles charged with crimes until they are certified to stand trial in adult court, as Peterson and Decker have been.