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Deserae Turner’s Grit Proves She Really is ‘Tougher Than a Bullet’

Dec 2, 2019, 9:51 PM | Updated: Dec 3, 2019, 9:19 am

AMALGA, Utah – It’s an incredible comeback story for a teenage girl once shot in the back of the head and left for dead in a canal in a small Cache County town.

Deserae Turner, 17, has proved she really is “tougher than a bullet,” as she told reporters in 2017 after months in the hospital.

Today, she is also confident in who she has become.

“Yeah, this is me. I’m loud and proud about it,” Des said. “Why is it that some people get shot in the head, they die? Me, I was shot, I laid eight hours in the cold canal. Why? I don’t know. Just, I was supposed to stay here.”

On a recent clear day, Des and her mom planted tulip bulbs in their yard – some of 1,008 they planted this year. Why so many?

Des and her mom planted tulip bulbs in their yard – some of 1,008 they planted this year.

“Why not? They make me happy. Do what makes you happy,” Des said.

For Des, flowers and plants represent new life and a new beginning. That’s why she has plants throughout her house.

“I’ve gone through a brain injury. I have scars all over me. That’s me, I’m beautiful. That’s what the tulips and the flowers show,” Des said.

A Dark Day

That’s a long road from the moment that changed her life.

On Feb. 17, 2017, then-14-year-old Des was shot in the back of the head and left for dead in the canal near her home. She lay there for eight hours before she was found.

She was shot by Colter Peterson, who was 16 years old at the time and someone Des considered a friend.

Peterson’s friend Jayzon Decker, who was also 16, was there as well.

Both Peterson and Decker pleaded guilty to the crime. Both were sentenced to 15 years to life.

Lasting Effects

X-ray images show the path the bullet took in Deserae’s head, leaving lasting damage.

X-ray images show the path the bullet took in Deserae’s head, leaving lasting damage.

“I could see before my injury. I am half-blind. I can see you [Dan Rascon]. You are in my line of vision, but I can’t see anything to the left,” Des said. “My arm and my leg were paralyzed. Well, technically my whole left side. That included my internal organs too.”

The memories of what happened at the canal on that February day still haunt her.

“It’s hard to explain where we are at because this is where hell happened,” Des said as she visited the canal for just the second time since the shooting.

Des said Peterson and Decker asked her to find a ring in the brush. As she turned her back and started searching, she was shot in the back of the head.

In an interview, she opened up about what she thought she was heading into that day, and what that canal represents for her now.

Deserae Turner visits the canal where she was shot with KSL TV’s Dan Rascon.

  • Deserae Turner: “It was a fun place where friends and I would meet up.”
  • Dan Rascon: “So you thought you were just going to meet up and have a good time?”
  • Deserae Turner: “Yeah.”
  • Dan Rascon: “As normal?”
  • Deserae Turner: “Just like any normal hang out.”
  • Dan Rascon: “And suddenly it turned ugly?”
  • Deserae Turner: “Yeah it did.”
  • Dan Rascon: “What has this place become to you now?”
  • Deserae Turner: “Just a darkened area. A place I like to avoid. I don’t come here. It’s where it all began. Where I became broken.”

Despite what happened that day and the fact that Des spent 63 days in the hospital recovering, she has managed to remain on track to graduate with her class in April. She made up two years of work in one year in order to get her high school diploma on time.

Des is still on track to graduate with her class.

“Lots and lots of work. Lots of packets, a lot of online school,” Des said. “What keeps me motivated is seeing that I worked my butt off that much. I can’t just stop, that’s not me. I can’t just stop. I did it, I just kept going.”

The biggest challenge Des faces is fatigue. That’s why her daily routine is so regimented. After a half-day of school, it’s nap time. She then begins a variety of physical therapy workouts and spends time in a hyperbaric chamber to help her with oxygen and healing.

Focused On The Future

Before the accident, Des was a champion horse rider, riding for hours every day. That has all changed, but dwelling on the past is not what Des is about.

Her focus is on the future. A future filled with hope just like her blossoming plants. That’s why she plans to continue to share her story — hoping to help others in their struggles.

“I have been at ground zero, maybe even negative. I’m up, I’m going to graduate,” she said. “I know it’s hard. Find your purpose on this earth, whatever that might be and stick to it. You’ll enjoy life much more that way.” Des loves to write and said she hopes to one day write an inspirational book about her story.

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Deserae Turner’s Grit Proves She Really is ‘Tougher Than a Bullet’