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From pain and grief to healing: Deserae Turner’s story of survival after being shot and left for dead

Posted at 10:06 PM, May 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-08 00:06:34-04

LOGAN, Utah - Deserae Turner is back at school, but she's not learning math and history. She's learning how to use her left hand again.

"This hand you don't have to think about it working. This one you're like how do you make it work," said Turner.

She's starting to use her left leg, but it's a slow process.

"The right side of my brain got hit, thus the left side of my body," said Turner.

16-year-old Deserae is talking about the bullet that still sits in her skull. It was February 17, 2017, when she was shot in the back of the head in a cold canal in Smithfield, Utah. She was found eight hours later in the middle of the night.

"My first memory is my dad coming and holding me when I woke up in a mysterious place. He said, 'Des I want you to know that you're safe but you've been shot and you're in the hospital.' My big question was who. Who would do this? And I finally found out later down the road and it was kind of a shock to me. I was like wow, I thought we were friends," said Turner.

She found out her friend, Colter Peterson, pulled the trigger. He conspired with Jayzon Decker.

"Jayzon I didn't know at all. I just knew he was Colter's friend. That's about it," Turner said.

However, the biggest question still remains a mystery.

“I constantly think about the why. Constantly wonder what if it hadn't happened,” said Deserae’s older sister, Lizzie Turner.

Fox 13’s Dora Scheidell asked her youngest sister, 9-year-old Kaycee Turner if what happened to Deserae made sense to her.

“The part that didn't make sense is why someone would do that,” said Kaycee Turner.

In court, prosecutors argued it was a planned killing, saying Peterson lured Deserae to the canal and texted Decker to meet them.

“I remember the mud. I remember turning to walk away,” said Turner.

Decker said he needed help finding a lost ring. Deserae leaned down to look and while she did, Decker texted Peterson, "let's get this done, bro."

Cache County Attorney James Swink prosecuted the case.

"To have a friend betray you, to have two friends betray you and commit a terrible act on her is just awful for her,” said Swink.

Both boys were sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Deserae faced both in court, but their reactions were completely different.

"What's really helped my heart is knowing that well Colter was sad for his mistakes," said Turner.

The shooter, Colter Peterson, cried in court.

“I know that he felt remorse and then for me, just because of the way I am, I felt sorry for him after. And after I wrote a letter to his parents saying how I felt bad,” said Turner.

However, the so-called mastermind, Jayzon Decker, never made eye contact with Deserae in court.

“Didn't even look at me. He had no empathy and I didn't care. It was like, 'screw you' kind of thing,” said Turner.

Deserae does have one regret about that night, not telling her parents where she was.

“Maybe this wouldn't have happened. They would've found me faster. I would be better off,” said Turner.

However, the Turners do their best to focus on the daily tasks, and there's a lot of them.

“We take one day at a time and it's a new adventure every single day,” said Deserae’s father, Matt Turner.

Due to her brain injury, Des only has a few hours of energy in her at a time, so after a few hours at school, she comes home to take a nap. Then it's time for her weekly chiropractor appointment. The adjustments help her headaches and alleviate some of her pain.

“For the longest time I wouldn't let anyone touch my head because it hurt so much,” said Turner.

Then she heads home to sit in a hyperbaric chamber. She usually spends about an hour a day inside, inhaling oxygen which helps her brain heal.

She spends a lot of time recovering at home, like standing on a swing to enhance her balance or playing ball with her sisters to work on her eyesight.

Once an accomplished, award-winning equestrian, Des can't help but mourn her old life.

“I did sit down in my room and just cry because it was a really sunny day and I wanted to go out and ride but I couldn't,” said Turner.

However, she does her best to spend most days looking forward, even though there's nothing certain about her future.

“What I want in the future is no pain. I don't know if that will happen, but that's what I potentially want,” she said.

Turner forges forward with the support of her family.

“We're a team. Team Turner. We stick together. We work through this,” said Matt Turner.

“Because of this, every single one of us in our family has become stronger,” said Lizzie Turner.

The family is beyond grateful for the support of the community.

“People are good and we are very blessed. We have been very blessed. This has been a bad situation but we have been very blessed,” said Matt Turner.

The Turners also rely on their faith to get them through.

“Heavenly father has always been right next to us like he`s never left our side. Ever,” said Deserae’s younger sister, 11-year-old Matty Turner.

Team Turner is living their new lives with gratitude.

“It will never be the normal normal, but we're finding our new normal,” said Turner.

Deserae's medical expenses cost the family at least $500 per month after insurance kicks in. There are still ways to donate to the Turners. You can go to any America First Credit Union and donate to the Deserae Turner Charity Fund. You can also donate to the GoFundMe page here: