Logan • Two 16-year-old boys were charged with attempted murder and other counts Tuesday after they allegedly shot a 14-year-old girl in the head and left her in an empty canal in Smithfield last week.
Charging documents allege that the shooting was a plot to murder Deserae Turner.
The boys were charged in 1st District Court with one count each of first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, and four counts each of second-degree felony obstructing justice.
The boys, who were arrested over the weekend and are being held at a juvenile-detention facility, are expected in court Wednesday for detention hearings.
Turner was reported missing last Thursday, and on early Friday morning, was found in the canal by people who knew her and were looking for her. She had been shot in the head, Smithfield Police Chief Travis Allen revealed during a Tuesday morning news conference, and was "gravely injured."
A family spokeswoman said the girl is in critical condition in a medically induced coma at a Salt Lake City area hospital.
"She is in the fight of her life right now," Jill Parker said.
Prosecutors allege that the boys lured Turner to the canal under the guise of selling her a knife.
"Police were advised that the original plan was to murder [the girl] using knives," Cache County Attorney James Swink wrote in charging documents.
Each of the boys carried a knife to the meeting place, one of the teens told police, but he also carried .22-caliber revolver as a "secondary weapon," if the original plan failed. That teen also admitted to police that he shot Turner in the back of the head, according to the charging documents, and later penned a written apology to Turner's family saying he was "so so so sorry."
The two planned to steal from the girl after they killed her, according to charging documents. After the shooting, the boys allegedly took Turner's backpack, cellphone and iPod, along with money from her purse.
When interviewed by police, the alleged shooter said he stashed the gun under his brother's mattress after the shooting — the same location from where he had initially retrieved it.
The other teen took the spent casing from the crime scene, according to prosecutors, as a "memento." Police found the casing "displayed" on the boy's window sill, according to charges.
The boys destroyed the girl's electronic items, according to charging documents, and threw them into a canal.
The second teen also was interviewed by police, but gave a number of conflicting stories. Initially, he told police that he had not been in contact with the other boy — though messages between the two showed their communications, which included indications that the girl's attempted murder was planned, according to charging documents.
Then the teen changed his story, saying he met his friend at the canal and watched him shoot a girl he did not recognize. He tried to run away, he allegedly told police, but the other teen boy caught up to him.
His interview with police eventually ended after he invoked his right to an attorney.
Prosecutors noted that footprints near the canal matched the treads on the bottoms of the shoes that the boys said they wore that day.
"I haven't seen anything like this case in the 18 years I've worked in Cache County," Swink said at the Tuesday news conference.
The county attorney said his office will seek to have the case moved to the adult system using Utah's Serious Youth Offender statute. The law allows prosecutors to push a case into adult court — and for youths to face the same consequences as if they were adults — if the juvenile is 16 or 17 and has committed one of several designated felonies. Attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery are both felonies that fall under this statute.
It is unclear from charging documents how the teens knew each other, or what the possible motive for murder might be. Charges state that one of the boys was asked why they would steal Turner's things, to which he replied, "Greed."
The police chief said there is no ongoing threat to the public at this time.
"This has kind of shaken up our citizens and our community," Allen said. "We haven't seen things like this before."
The canal where the girl was found is east of Sky View High School in Smithfield. Allen would not say if the suspects attended this school, or release any details about the boys' identities.
The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify juveniles who have been charged with crimes, unless they have been certified to stand trial in adult court.
A GoFundMe account to help Deserae Turner's family with ongoing family expenses has been set up at: https://www.gofundme.com/fight-for-deserae-turner
Donations can also be made at any America First Credit Union to the Deserae Turner Fund.