A year after luring a girl to a canal and shooting her in the back of the head, a 17-year-old Utah boy learned Thursday he’ll be spending the foreseeable future in prison and cried in open court as his victim laid into him.
She said, “I hate you,” and she welcomed him “to hell” where she said “I have been … for a year now.”
Fifteen-year-old Deserae Turner’s words were so powerful that the judge told her he was moved, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
“Deserae, your bravery, wit and even humor in all of this tragedy while testifying today touched my soul,” Judge Allen told her, tears visible in his eyes. “Your survival … shows us what true strength and courage really is.”
Colter Danny Peterson, who was charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to aggravated attempted murder and second-degree robbery in October. The judge sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison.
In February 2017, then 14-year-old Turner was found in critical condition in a canal bed in Smithfield, Utah. She had been shot in the back of the head on Feb. 16, 2017, then robbed and left to die, authorities said. After months of treatment, she was released from the hospital in April.
Peterson was the one who fired the gun, with Decker’s encouragement, according to authorities. They then stole some money and electronics from Turner’s backpack.
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Decker, who was also charged as an adult, in December pleaded guilty to first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice, according to the Tribune. He is expected to be sentenced next week.
At Peterson’s sentencing on Thursday, Turner addressed him for more than 20 minutes, reports local TV station KTVX. She told Peterson how much her life has changed since the shooting: She has only full use of one side of her body and deals with depression and anxiety.
She spoke of the toll the violence has taken on her family and told Peterson the brain trauma she endured has cut her life expectancy by 20 years.
“I hate what you did to me,” she said, according to the Tribune. “I hate that I trusted you. … Your life will be confined to a small room, and my life will also be confined.”
“I hate you,” Turner told Peterson, who sobbed throughout his hearing. “I hate what you did to me.”
“I am tougher than a bullet,” the news station quotes the girl as saying. “Welcome to hell. I have been here for a year now.”
Sitting in a wheelchair, Turner told Peterson she wants him to think of her every time he uses his left arm, since she cannot use hers, according to the Tribune. Every time he has a headache, she said, 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.
Turner’s father, Matt Turner, also spoke at the sentencing, the paper reports. He told Peterson the boy robbed his daughter of the things in life she loved most, like riding horses.
Peterson also destroyed Deserae’s dreams of becoming a nurse, Matt said.
KUTV reports that Judge Allen spoke directly to Peterson on Thursday, just before doling out his punishment.
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“There is evil in this world, no doubt … Colter, what you did … was evil and horrific,” the judge said. “However, just as I said evil can be embraced, it can also be abandoned. You are young and not so far gone that you are beyond help or redemption.”
The judge also implored the public to be kind to Peterson’s family, who remain in the community.
Peterson spoke Thursday and expressed regret for his actions, according to KUTV. (His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.)
His family was with him in court and also reportedly apologized to the Turner family.
“I want to pay for what I’ve done,” Peterson said. “And I will spend the rest of my life making up for this, with the hope that one day I will be forgiven.”