What came next was worse. “I haven’t seen anything like this case in the 18 years that I’ve worked for Cache County,” said James Swink, the Cache County attorney, during a Tuesday news conference from the county courthouse. “It weighs heavily upon us in law enforcement to be involved in a case like this.”
Authorities discovered that Turner had been the victim of an apparent robbery and attempt on her life. On Tuesday, documents filed by Utah prosecutors alleged that two 16-year-old boys had lured her into the canal. The boys told Turner that they would sell her a knife. Instead, according to the court documents, they planned to kill her. One boy allegedly shot her in the head with a .22 caliber handgun. The teenagers stole her iPod, her phone and $55 she was carrying in her purse, according to the documents.
Friends of the family found Turner in the canal bed. They were searching the Smithfield area based on Turner’s cellphone information, which local authorities had provided. Officials tracked her phone to the final cell towers it had pinged before the trail went cold; her phone had either died or someone had turned it off.
Upon discovering Turner, the friends called for emergency medical help. Turner was prone, semiconscious from a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
But she was alive. “We know that our Father in heaven is watching over her,” said Jill Parker, a Cache County victims advocate who spoke on behalf of Turner’s family during a news conference Tuesday.
An ambulance took Turner to a medical center. From there, she was taken to a children’s hospital in Salt Lake City via helicopter. Doctors medically induced a coma. As of Tuesday morning, she remained in the coma in critical condition.
“She is in the fight of her life,” Parker said.
Turner being alive was not, according to court documents filed Tuesday, what the two 16-year-old boys had planned.
The teenage boys, who have not been named, face six charges: one count of aggravated attempted murder, a count of aggravated robbery and four counts of obstruction of justice. Prosecutors planned to try the teenagers as adults in the First District Court of Utah, under the state’s Serious Youth Offender Act. They will be arraigned in Juvenile Court on Wednesday.
Authorities did not elaborate on Turner’s relationship with the two teenage boys during the news conference, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. By Tuesday morning investigators had spent about 500 man-hours in the attempt to uncover the facts of Thursday’s shooting, a joint effort between the sheriff’s office and the Smithfield police department.
Interviews with friends and acquaintances led law enforcement officials to believe that the boys were people of interest. Officials had interviewed the two teenagers Thursday, before Turner was discovered wounded in the canal. At the time, according to the authorities, the pair denied knowing where Turner was.
But a search of the canal bed yielded evidence that Turner had not traveled alone. Footprints matched the treads of the Vans and Nike sneakers the boys wore, according to court documents obtained by Salt Lake City’s KUTV.
Warrants served over the weekend, too, provided more information about the shooting. “Items that have been seized include the handgun believed to be involved in the shooting, much of Deserae’s personal belongings, including her cellphone and other collaborating evidence,” Smithfield Police Chief Travis Allen said during the news conference. Turner’s cellphone indicated that she had been in contact with one of the boys before her disappearance.
“This has shaken up our citizens and our community,” the police chief said during the news conference, echoing Swink. “We haven’t seen things like this before.”
Both boys were carrying knives, authorities said, with which they planned to kill Turner. Police said that one of the boys described the .22 pistol as a backup weapon “if the original plan failed.”
One suspect, the alleged shooter, said that he hid the pistol beneath a mattress belonging to his brother. He also told police where to find a spent bullet casing — on the window ledge in the bedroom of the other suspect. Both objects, according to the police, were located in the places where the alleged shooter said they would be.
The casing, the suspected shooter allegedly told the police, had been kept by the other as a “memento.” Near the right side of Turner’s brain, KUTV reported, doctors detected a small-caliber bullet.
The motivation for the attack, one of the suspects reportedly said, was “greed.” The alleged shooter wrote a note to Turner’s family, according to the court documents, in which he said he was “so sorry.” The other teenager gave conflicting accounts to police before invoking his right to an attorney.