Teen pleads guilty to shooting Deserae Turner and leaving her in dry canal

Colter Peterson leaves the courtroom after pleading guilty to attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, on Tuesday in Logan. Peterson shot Deserae Turner in February 2017, and left her for dead in a dry irrigation canal in Smithfield, Utah.

LOGAN — The 17-year-old Smithfield teenager accused of shooting Deserae Turner in the back of the head and leaving her to die in a dry canal bed, has pleaded guilty. Colter Peterson, one of the two boys charged with trying to kill the then 14-year-old girl, has accepted a plea deal that could bring a sentence of up to life in prison.

Peterson appeared in 1st District Court Tuesday morning. He stood next to his public defender, Mike McGinnis, as he pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and robbery, a second-degree felony. As part of the plea agreement, state attorneys dropped four other charges against him of obstructing justice.

Outside the courtroom, McGinnis said what happened to Turner was terrible. He explained that Peterson is emotionally sorry for what he did and wants to put it behind him.

“Colter wants to take responsibility for what he did,” McGinnis said. “You saw his remorse today. That was a big part of this. He had a hard time up there. From day one he has tried to help the state with their case. Again, he pled guilty because he wanted to pay for what he did.”

Police allege Peterson and 16-year-old Jayzon Decker concocted a plan to kill Turner while playing video games and discussing their desire to “get rid” of her. She was found with a gunshot wound to the head, early in the morning of February 17. She had reportedly been left to die in a dry canal east of Sky View High School.

Peterson was the gunman, shooting Turner in the back of the head with a .22 caliber revolver. Decker is alleged to have acted as lookout, letting Peterson know when it was clear to shoot Turner.

After the hearing, Cache County Attorney James Swink said the plea agreement was in the best interest with Deserae and the Turner family. He said the state will be seeking the maximum penalty in the case, 15-years-to-life in prison.

“That will give the judge all the latitude necessary to hand down as stiff a sentence as he sees appropriate,” said Swink. “We couldn’t have gotten any more penalties had we gone to trial, than what we got today.”

Peterson spoke only briefly during Tuesday’s hearing, telling the judge, “yes” and “I do,” when asked if he understood that he was giving up his right’s to a fair trial. Several times he also struggled to answer as he wiped tears from his eyes. He never looked at Deserae Turner or her family, who were both seated in the gallery behind him.

Outside the courtroom, Deserae’s father read a prepared statement. Matt Turner said they were grateful for the men and women who are helping their family.

“Our daughter continues to struggle,” Turner said. “She works every day to gain as much quality of life as she can, but her life will never be the same.”

While Peterson was pleading guilty for his part in the shooting, the co-defendant Jayzon Decker was appearing in a different courtroom. The 16-year-old’s attorney told the court they are working toward a possible resolution. They were ordered to appear again on November 7.

As part Peterson’s plea deal, he has agreed to testify against Decker, if the co-defendant’s case goes to trial. Because of the agreement and for the defendant’s safety, Judge Kevin Allen ordered Peterson to be transferred to another juvenile detention center. He postponed sentencing until after Decker’s case is resolved.

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