Utah Student Crowned Homecoming Queen 2 Years After Being Shot in the Head and Left for Dead

"She is the most determined person I have ever known," Deserae Turner's mother said

Deserae Turner
Photo: Fox 13

A Utah student has turned tragedy into triumph after she was crowned homecoming queen of her high school just two years after she was shot in the head and left for dead.

On Friday, Deserae Turner, 17, beamed with joy as she walked the football field of Green Canyon High School, escorted by her father. The teen flashed a wide smile, proudly wearing her sash, tiara and gray tulle dress embellished with jewels.

“I felt honored to know the student body picked me to be Homecoming Queen,” Turner tells PEOPLE.

Deserae says the experience was nothing short of a fairytale, explaining, “It felt magical, like I was Cinderella.”

“A dream come true that I didn’t know I had,” Deserae says. “I was happy for days.”

Deserae documented her journey to the throne on Facebook, sharing moments of herself getting ready for both the game and the homecoming parade.


While it’s clear Deserae was deserving of the recognition, she has remained humble and thankful throughout the process.

“I would like to tell my community and school, thank you, I truly felt like a Queen. I wish every girl could experience such a magical, amazing event. I wish every high school student can feel as loved as I did.”

Watching Deserae in her glory brought tears to her mom’s eyes, April Turner tells PEOPLE.

“I have cried many happy tears,” April says. “It is special to see Des so happy and doing something that normal teenagers do. Her life is so different than the typical teenager.”

“It’s wonderful for her to just suspend her doctors appointments and therapies to be a ‘normal’ teen for a moment. I’m sure this will always be a treasured memory as she looks back on Homecoming week.”

As Deserae continues to revel in her new title, she makes sure to note that life up until this point for her has been far from easy — in fact it’s a miracle she was even able to walk the football field on her own.

Deserae Turner
Deserae Turner. AP/Shutterstock

In February 2017, Deserae was shot in the back of the head and left in a ditch in Smithfield by two of her classmates, HJ News and the Associated Press reported.

After eight gruesome hours, Deserae was found.

Her classmates — Colter Peterson and Jayzon Decker — have both been sentenced to terms of 15 years to life in prison, according to KUTV News.

“I had to relearn how to do everything,” Deserae tells PEOPLE. “I have permanent disabilities, vision loss and left side paralysis.”

“I’ve had 13 surgeries since the injury, 10 of them being brain surgeries.”

Deserae shares she is scheduled for two more surgeries before the end of the year.

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Despite the many obstacles she still has to overcome, Deserae is as committed as ever to finishing high school. She is on track to graduate this spring.

Deserae Turner
Deserae Turner. AP/Shutterstock

She tells PEOPLE that after graduation, “I want to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, then get a job working with animals or do volunteer work.”

“School is really hard, but I will try to take classes just so I can learn more about things that interest me.”

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