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‘I Am Tougher Than a Bullet’: Utah Girl Allegedly Shot and Left for Dead by 2 Teen Boys Speaks Out

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Deserae Turner (center) speaks at a news conference in Salt Lake City on April 20, 2017.
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The Utah teen who authorities say was shot in the back of the head, robbed and left for dead in a dry canal bed two months ago — allegedly at the hands of two older boys — has been released from the hospital.

“I told my dad that I am tougher than a bullet,” Deserae Turner said at a news conference on Thursday in Salt Lake City, according to KSL-TV. “It is still with me today.”

Turner, 14, had been recovering at Primary Children’s Hospital since she was found in critical condition in the canal bed in Smithfield, Utah. Police allege two 16-year-old boys lured her to the spot because one of them “got tired” of her texting and messaging him on Snapchat.

The teens are charged with one count each of first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and four counts each of second-degree felony obstructing justice.

Prosecutors are seeking for both suspects to be tried as adults, which a judge will rule on following court hearings in May. The suspects have not entered pleas to their charges.

(PEOPLE does not identify juveniles who have been charged with crimes unless they are tried as adults.)

Turner was wearing a white T-shirt with the word “Happy” written on the front as she addressed the media on Thursday. She said she was “thankful to be here today, to be alive.”

“People all over the world have been praying for me,” she said, according to KSL-TV. “Some of them I know and some I have never met, and they have never met me, but they cared for me, and they care for you.”

She continued, “I would like others to know that people are kind and they do care about us and are concerned about us, even when we may think no one is there.”

Deserae Turner
Smithfield Police Department

At a preliminary hearing in March, Cache County, Utah, sheriff’s deputy Brian Groves testified that the plan to kill Turner was hatched after the accused teen shooter told his friend that he “got tired” of Turner’s contacting him and joked about killing her.

His friend allegedly replied, “It would be pretty easy to get rid of her,” Groves testified, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

According to Groves, the teens allegedly planned to slit Turner’s throat in their first attempt to kill her but the shooter “indicated to me that he couldn’t do it.”

A few days later, on Feb. 16, the teens allegedly lured Turner to the dry canal bed in Smithfield under the guise of selling her a knife. They had allegedly planned to stab her to death and then rob her — but one of the boys decided instead to use a .22-caliber revolver he had brought with him, investigators claim.

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Groves alleged Turner was shot in the back of the head by the teen to whom she had been sending Snapchat messages and that he fired on her when she turned away to start walking home.

“She had no idea that was going to happen,” Groves testified. “[The teen] said it was the most merciful way.”

Two women out searching for her found Turner lying in the ditch, according to court testimony.

Defense Attorneys React

David Perry, the attorney representing the suspected teen shooter, tells PEOPLE the case is “very perplexing.”

“It is a tragedy all the way around,” he says.

“On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the most empathetic, he scores a 10,” he continues of his client. “He is so remorseful. It was totally out-of-character for these two boys.”

“My client is so so sorry,” Perry says. “He is very, very remorseful. He is not your typical kid involved in the juvenile justice system. He has no criminal history.”

Attorney Shannon Demler, who is representing the second accused teen, echoes many of those same thoughts in a separate interview with PEOPLE. “It is a tragedy what happened to the young girl,” he says. “There was no reason something like that should happen to her, and it has been a tragedy for the families of the boys as well.”

Demler says his client “has no previous record whatsoever” and “it is just a hard situation to figure out how this all came about, it doesn’t make any sense when you look at it logically.”

“My client wasn’t the shooter and wasn’t alleged to be the shooter,” he says.

Turner and the two suspects did not attend the same school, but they knew each other socially, according to Demler. The shooting “has kind of shaken the community, because you never expect things like this to happen,” he says.

‘A Look of Shock’

Smithfield police detective Brandon Muir testified that one month after she was shot, a still-hospitalized Turner asked police who did it and why.

Muir said he didn’t answer Turner’s questions; it was decided that her father would tell her.

“She was surprised,” the detective testified, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “She had a look of shock on her face.”

“What a great day,” Turner’s father, Matt Turner, said at Thursday’s news conference, according to KSL-TV. “Because of the love and care of so many, we are taking our beautiful, courageous daughter home today.

“Nine weeks ago, we did not know if this was possible.”