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Logan • The teen boy accused of pulling the trigger and shooting 14-year-old Deserae Turner will be tried as an adult, a judge ruled Wednesday.
First District Juvenile Court Judge Angela Fonnesbeck made the decision after two days of testimony about 16-year-old Colter Danny Peterson, who is accused of shooting Turner in the back of the head Feb. 16, leaving the girl with lifelong injuries from which, the judge said, she and her family are "likely never to fully recover."
Peterson and another boy, 16-year-old Jayzen Decker, are both charged with attempted aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and other crimes. While Peterson is accused of firing the bullet that struck Turner, prosecutors allege that Decker helped him plot the act and encouraged him to shoot.
Earlier this week, Fonnesbeck ruled that Decker also will stand trial as an adult for his role in the shooting. Both boys are expected to make their first appearances in 1st District Court on Thursday.
In making her Wednesday ruling, Fonnesbeck found that while Peterson has no prior criminal record, his alleged actions in the shooting were premeditated. She said there was plenty of time for the defendant to step away from this crime, but he did not do so.
"He planned, and he acted," the judge said. "He pulled the trigger."
The defense proved why it would be in Peterson's best interest to remain in the juvenile system, Fonnesbeck said, but did not show that it would be in the best interest of public safety.
If convicted, both boys now face the same penalties as if they were adults. The attempted aggravated murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years to life in the Utah State Prison.
After the hearing, Peterson's defense attorney, David Perry, called the judge's decision "a travesty" and became emotional as he insisted that juveniles should be treated differently in the criminal-justice system.
"He's only 16 years old," Perry told reporters. "If he goes to prison, by the time he gets out, it will be 17 years since [this week's] testimony before he can even be thought of being released. That is longer than he is old."
His young client was torn up about the decision, Perry said, and his family is sad.
Members of Turner's family were in court Wednesday, but did not comment to the media about the judge's ruling.
Cache County Attorney James Swink called the girl's family members "strong," but he said the court proceedings have been "emotionally draining" for them, and that they hope matters can be resolved quickly.
"These hearings really are difficult for everyone involved," Swink said, adding that the judge made a "sound decision" based on "careful consideration" of all the evidence.
On Tuesday, Peterson's family testified that the boy they knew was a "kind and gentle" peacemaker.
But Smithfield Detective Brandon Muir told of finding links and images on the defendant's phone that led to a website showcasing extreme gore and violence. Its main content was "all kinds" of executions, including beheadings by the Islamic State group. It also contained violent pornography and other "disturbing" images, Muir testified.
The boys are accused of luring Turner to a Smithfield canal Feb. 16 with the intent to slit her throat, according to charges, but they ultimately decided to use a gun instead. After Peterson allegedly shot Turner in the back of the head, prosecutors allege that they took cash and electronics from Turner's backpack.
After his arrest, Peterson said he had become annoyed with Turner for texting and contacting him through the messaging app Snapchat, according to preliminary hearing testimony.
Turner's parents reported her missing after she did not return home from school. Two women searching for the girl found her, according to preliminary hearing testimony.
After being hospitalized for nine weeks, Turner was released April 20.
Turner's mother, April Turner, testified Tuesday that her daughter's extensive injuries will affect her for the rest of her life.
After the shooting, the girl was "as close to dead as you can be."
The bullet and several fragments are still lodged in the girl's brain, April Turner said, and have caused partial blindness, and paralysis and weakening on the left side of her body.
Before the shooting, the girl's goals for the summer would have been to "ride horses, practice karate. Now it's just to move her fingers," the mother said.
The two defendants lived in Smithfield and attended Sky View High School. Turner, who lives in Amalga, attended North Cache Middle School in Richmond.
The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify juveniles charged with crimes until they are certified to stand trial in adult court, as Peterson and Decker now have been.