Logan • Before the teen who shot her in the head was sentenced to prison Thursday, Deserae Turner sat in a wheelchair just feet from him and told him of the pain and suffering he has caused her in the last year.
She told 17-year-old Colter Danny Peterson that she hopes he thinks of her every time he uses his left arm — she no longer can use hers. When he wakes up every morning and looks around his prison cell, the 15-year-old said, he should think of her and how difficult it is for her to see.
Think of her, she said, when he reads a book — she often can’t remember words from the page now. And think of her when he has a headache, multiply it by “a thousand” and remember that’s the pain she now feels every day because the bullet he fired at her is still lodged in her brain.
“I hate you,” she said, as Peterson sat at the defense table and wept. “I hate what you did to me. I hate that I trusted you. … Your life will be confined to a small room, and my life will also be confined.”
First District Judge Kevin Allen sentenced Peterson Thursday to spend a 15-years-to-life term in the Utah State Prison. Peterson in October pleaded guilty to aggravated attempted murder, a first-degree-felony, and second-degree-felony robbery. The judge also ordered Peterson to serve a one-to-15-year term for the robbery count, but he ordered that sentence to run concurrent to the other.
Deserae’s family and prosecutors asked for the harshest sentence for Peterson, saying his plot to kill the girl was “cruel” and “evil.” Peterson has admitted that he and a friend, 17-year-old Jayzon Decker, lured Deserae to a canal with the intent to kill her. He fired a shot at the girl’s head before the two teens left her for dead.
The girl’s parents emphasized that their daughter will suffer for the rest of her life as a result of her injuries. Her father, Matt Turner, cried as he spoke about how all the dreams she had — and those dreams he had for her — that have all been changed.
She can’t ride horses like she once loved to do, and she won’t be able to pursue her goal of being a nurse.
“Why did you have to do this to my little girl?” Turner sobbed. “This shouldn’t have had to happen!”
Peterson’s parents turned to Deserae and her family during their statements and apologized for what happened. They asked for mercy from the judge in his sentencing, saying he was raised in a home where he was taught the difference between right and wrong.
“I pray the punishment will be just,” father Danny Peterson said. “No more, and no less.”
Peterson’s attorney, Michael McGinnis, had asked the judge for leniency, citing his client’s age and willingness to testify against Decker, had Decker’s case gone to trial.
Decker pleaded guilty to similar charges in December and is expected to be sentenced next week.
“I don’t think Colter is a monster, your honor,” McGinnis said. “I think Colter is a good kid who did something really horrible. We can’t throw Colter away; I think there’s still hope for Colter and his life.”
Sobs wracked Peterson throughout the lengthy hearing. He offered an apology to Deserae and her family, and he said he felt like he allowed himself to be influenced by others.
“I want to pay for what I’ve done,” he said. “And I will spend the rest of my life making up for this, with the hope that one day I will be forgiven.”
The teens lured Deserae to the Smithfield canal on the evening of Feb. 16. The original plan was to slit her throat with knives they brought, according to prosecutors. But Peterson fired the 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 the 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 girl was hospitalized for nine weeks before returning to her home in Amalga.
As a result of the shooting, Turner suffers from partial blindness, according to her family, as well as paralysis and weakness on her left side.
After Thursday’s hearing, Cache County Attorney James Swink said Peterson’s sentence will be long enough that it will allow everyone involved — Deserae’s family, Peterson’s family and the community — time to heal.
With Deserae by his side, Matt Turner said his family was pleased with the sentence and hoped they will be able to continue to heal from the tragedy, and that Peterson would be locked up.
“We are glad there is a justice system in place,” he said, “a justice system that ensures this individual is no longer a risk to our community safety.”