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Logan • A month after 14-year-old Deserae Turner was shot in the back of the head and left to die in a Smithfield canal, she asked two questions of a police investigator.
Who did this? And why?
Smithfield Detective Brandon Muir testified on Tuesday that he didn't answer the girl right away during their March 10 interview at Primary Children's Hospital. Instead, after consulting with her therapist, they decided her father would be the one to tell her that police suspect two 16-year-old boys whom she called friends had plotted to kill her.
"She was surprised," the detective recalled. "She had a look of shock on her face."
A video interview with the girl was one piece of evidence presented Tuesday in a 1st District juvenile courtroom as part of a day-long preliminary hearing for the 16-year-old boy who is accused of pulling the trigger. Both boys are charged with attempted murder, aggravated robbery and obstructing justice accused of shooting Turner, stealing her things and leaving her in the canal.
Juvenile Judge Angela Fonnesbeck ruled Tuesday that there was probable cause for the case to move forward for the accused shooter. A May 8 hearing was set, where attorneys will present more evidence and the judge will decide whether the case will proceed in juvenile or adult court.
A preliminary hearing for the second teen during which prosecutors expect to present largely the same evidence as on Tuesday is scheduled for Wednesday.
During Muir's testimony on Tuesday, the video interview showed the girl propped in a hospital bed, speaking quietly in a high voice, and taking long pauses as the detective asked her to describe the day of the shooting. There was much she could not remember, but she spoke of being in a muddy canal with the two boys.
Earlier that day, police say she had texted a friend, telling him that she was "getting picked on" by the two older boys, adding that "they want to fight."
While the girl had told her friend about being bullied by the two boys, the alleged shooter would later tell police that he didn't think Turner ever knew that he had gun in hand that day or that he had pointed it at the back of her head and fired the single shot.
"She had no idea that was going to happen," Cache County Sheriff Deputy Brian Groves testified. "[The teen] said it was the most merciful way."
Shooting the girl on that particular day was not the original plan, Groves testified. The alleged shooter told Groves that he had met Turner at the canal days before, intending to kill her then.
"He was supposed to slit her throat," the detective said. "He indicated to me that he couldn't do it."
The two teen boys had concocted a similar plan on Feb. 16, the teen told Groves, and had brought a gun as a back-up plan. But they realized at some point that neither could cut the girl's throat, the teen later confessed to Groves.
He looked back at his friend and, with a look and nod, he knew it was time to pull out his gun. The girl had turned away from the teens to start walking home when he fired once, Groves testified.
When Groves asked the teen why he shot the girl, the teen said he became annoyed with Turner texting and contacting him through the messaging app Snapchat.
Groves testified that the teen told him that he initially only joked to his friend about getting rid of Turner because he "got tired" of her messaging.
But his friend told him, "It would be pretty easy to get rid of her," Groves testified.
From there, the boys planned and plotted until that day when the alleged shooter met Turner at the canal a second time. The second boy came to the canal after his friend summoned him with a texted code word of "Hey," Groves testified.
The text messages between the two boys continued, according to testimony, even as they were at the canal with Turner.
"Let's get this done, bro," one of the boys texted, to which the other responded, "Yeah man, hold on. Are we clear?"
Groves testified that at a later interview, he asked the teen if there was something special about Turner that made her a target. The boy replied that there was nothing, the deputy testified, and that the same outcome would have been likely with any other girl.
But the teen confessed that if he didn't have his friend with him, Groves said, he likely would not have pulled the trigger.
"I wouldn't have had the courage to do it," he told Groves, according to the lawman's testimony.
After the shooting, the teens allegedly took Turner's backpack, money and electronics and left her at the canal.
By that evening, Turner's parents had reported her missing and news of her disappearance was spreading on social media.
Sue Hintze and Christy Layne both testified Tuesday that they knew the Turners and wanted to offer any help they could, so they headed to a trail near the canal late that night. Hintze testified that she took a lantern and a knife with her to search for the girl.
"It's dark," she said of the area. "It's spooky. I felt like I needed to protect myself."
The women had been slowly walking the trail when Layne spotted the girl lying in a ditch.
Layne testified that after finding the girl, she complained that she was cold and her head hurt. They covered her with their coats, the women testified, and called 911.
The responding officer, Smithfield Police's Brent Stirland, testified that they initially thought the girl needed treatment for hypothermia. Later, medics found the gunshot wound.
The alleged shooter hung his head and wiped his eyes with tissues as Stirland's body camera video was shown in court. The video showed images of the girl as she was carried from the canal into an ambulance.
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.