People

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Courts & Trials

Utah Teen Pleads Guilty to Shooting Girl, 14, and Leaving Her to Die — Because She ‘Bothered’ Him

Posted on

Deserae Turner
Smithfield Police Department

A Utah teenager who lured a 14-year-old girl to a canal and shot her in the back of the head earlier this year after he got “tired” of her contacting him online admitted to felony charges on Tuesday, PEOPLE confirms.

Colter Danny Peterson, 17, appeared before a First District Court judge in Utah and pleaded guilty to aggravated attempted murder and second-degree robbery, a court official tells PEOPLE. He will be sentenced early next year.

Peterson was charged as an adult and Cache County, Utah, Attorney James Swink tells PEOPLE he is seeking the highest sentencing for the crime: 15 years to life.

“This wasn’t the only time he [Peterson] made threats like this to a girl,” Swink says. “[This case] shows how much of danger he is to others. There will be some things that come out at sentencing that show his propensity to make threats like this and not only make threats but he carried one of those threats out.”

In February, 14-year-old Deserae Turner was found in critical condition in a canal bed in Smithfield, Utah.

She had been shot in the back of the head and left to die, authorities said.

Police alleged that two 16-year-old boys — Peterson and Jayzen Decker — lured Deserae to the spot because one of them “got tired” of her texting and messaging him on Snapchat.

Decker is awaiting a status hearing in January, Swink says. He has not yet entered a plea and faces a count each of aggravated attempted murder and aggravated robbery. He is charged as an adult.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter. 

At a preliminary hearing in March, Cache County sheriff’s deputy Brian Groves testified that the plan to kill Deserae was hatched after Peterson told Decker that he “got tired” of her contacting him and joked about killing her.

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

Deserae Turner (center) at a news conference in April
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The teens allegedly planned to slit Deserae’s throat in their first attempt to kill her, but Peterson said he couldn’t do it.

Instead, a few days later, the boys allegedly lured Turner to a dry canal bed in Smithfield under the guise of selling her a knife. Authorities said they had allegedly planned to stab her to death and then rob her — but Peterson decided instead to shoot her as she walked away, using a .22-caliber revolver he had brought with him.

“There’s some really raw feelings that people have towards the defendants in this case,” Swink tells PEOPLE. “[The shooting] was unnecessary violence and it was just an act of meanness with really no reason for it other than these boys were bothered by her.”

• PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: 35 Real Cases That Inspired the Show Law & Order is on sale now.

Deserae, who was released from the hospital in April, is still recovering from her injuries, Swink says. At a news conference at the time, she said, “I told my dad that I am tougher than a bullet.”

She appeared at Tuesday’s plea hearing with her family.

“You could feel the support from her family, law enforcement and the community that was present [Tuesday],” Swink tells PEOPLE. “This type of case is a really emotionally draining — it has reverberated through our whole community, it’s hurt us all.”

After the hearing, Deserae’s father, Matt Turner, read a statement:

“Our daughter continues to struggle,” he said through tears, according to the Tribune. “She works every day to gain as much quality of life as she can. But her life will never be the same.”

Attorneys for both Decker and Peterson could not be reached for comment.

“There was a quite a bit of relief yesterday,” Swink says. “The sooner we can resolve this case the better, it can be for the family, and Turner’s mental and emotional health. Her healing is our primary concern.”