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Nine weeks after she was shot in the head and left to die in a Smithfield canal, 14-year-old Deserae Turner was released from the hospital Thursday.
Wearing a white T-shirt with the word "Happy" scrawled on the front, the teen said Thursday that her clothing reflected how she felt: happy to go home. Happy to soon see the horses that she loves. Happy to be alive.
"I am so thankful to be here today to be alive," Turner said during a news conference Thursday, adding that she was thankful to the doctors and others at Primary Children's Hospital who helped her after the Feb. 16 shooting.
Turner has been working hard on her recovery since the shooting and said she still has "a lot of work to do."
"I told my dad that I am tougher than a bullet," she said. "[The bullet] is still with me today. But I am here, and I get to go home today."
Two 16-year-old boys have been charged with attempted murder and other crimes in connection with Turner's shooting. They are accused of luring Turner to the canal that February afternoon under the guise of selling her a pocketknife. Authorities say she was shot in the back of the head by one of the boys as she walked away from them.
The pending criminal cases were not discussed during Thursday's news conference. Details about the extent of the girl's injuries or her recovery process were not shared.
But Matt Turner said they have seen "many miracles" as his daughter has recovered.
"What a great day," he said. "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 that was possible."
Turner family members thanked those who have shown them kindness and who have prayed for the girl in the past few months.
The teen said she was surprised to see how her story spread throughout the world even some people in the Netherlands, she said, offered their support for her.
"People all over the world have been praying for me," she said. "And some of them I know and some of them I have never met. ... But they cared for me. I would like others to know that people are kind and they do care about us and are concerned about us, even when we think no one is there."
Deserae Turner used a wheelchair as she arrived at Thursday's event, but she walked a short distance to a table where she sat with her parents. Her hair was cut short a style she plans to keep if her hair doesn't grow back curly like it once was. During the news conference, the teen shared long looks with her mother and held her hand.
In the criminal cases, prosecutors have asked for the two teens to stand trial in the adult court a decision that a juvenile court judge is expected to make next month.
If the cases remain in juvenile court, the maximum penalty the teens could receive is a stay in a secure juvenile care facility until they turn 21. In the adult system, they would face the same penalties as if they were adults.
Turner was reported missing Feb. 16 by her parents after she did not return home from school. By that evening, news of her disappearance had spread on social media.
Two women who knew her family decided to walk a trail near the canal that evening and spotted the girl, according to preliminary hearing testimony. They covered her with their coats, the women testified, and called 911.
Initially, first responders believed Turner was suffering from hypothermia. Later medics found the gunshot wound in the back of her head.
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.