A judge ordered prison Thursday for a teenage boy who shot a 14-year-old girl in the head and left her to die.
Colter Peterson, 17, was sentenced to 15 years to life for the attempted murder of Deserae Turner, as well as one to 15 years for stealing the wounded girl's belongings.
While 1st District Court Judge Kevin Allen did not opt to sentence Peterson to potentially shorter terms of six years to life or 10 years to life in prison, he also did not run the two sentences back to back, as prosecutors had requested.
As he handed down the sentence, Allen called Deserae and her family an example for the community, while assuring Peterson that he did not believe the young man was beyond hope.
"There is evil in the world, no doubt," Allen said. "Colter, what you did to this completely innocent young girl, as you know, was evil and horrific."
He went on to tell the teen, "You are young and not so far gone that you cannot obtain redemption."
Deserae, who is now 15, spoke during Thursday's hearing of the physical, emotional and social injuries that the debilitating gunshot has left her with. She then asked to turn and face Peterson, telling him of the anger and betrayal she felt, and the bleak futures he left them both with.
"Good luck in prison, and remember that because of you, my life is a prison," Deserae said, as the tall teenager hunched in front of her, trembling and crying.
"Welcome to hell. I have been here for a year now."
Peterson pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors in October to attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and an amended charge of robbery, a second-degree felony.
Prosecutors made an impassioned plea Thursday for the longest possible prison sentence - consecutive terms for the two charges, which would total at least 16 years and up to life in prison.
While Peterson's attorney asked for the judge for a shorter sentence considering his client's age, remorse and amenability to rehabilitation, prosecutor Spencer Walsh said that the teen should not get any credit "for Deserae's remarkable will to live."
Walsh went on to reiterate the shocking details of the crime, as well as other "red flags" in Peterson's history that showed this wasn't simply the consequence of a boy with depression who caved under peer pressure from his friend, but a callous act by a teen who was obsessed with weapons and violence and who had threatened to harm other girls in the past.
Peterson, who was 16 at the time of the attack, told police he became annoyed by Deserae's frequent Snapchat messages, leading his friend, Jayzon Decker, to suggest they get rid of her, according to testimony in preliminary hearings last year.
The boys lured Deserae to a secluded spot along a canal near Smithfield's Sky View High School on Feb. 16, 2017, saying they wanted to sell her a knife, and when Decker signaled that the moment had come, Peterson shot Deserae in the back of the head. The teens then stole Deserae's belongings and left her in the mud.
Deserae was near death eight hours later when she was found by family friends who were out searching for her. She survived, but the bullet that remains lodged in her skull did permanent damage to her brain, leaving her with difficulty seeing, walking, eating and thinking.
Decker, who has also turned 17 since the shooting, pleaded guilty in December to attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. While he didn't pull the trigger, prosecutors have said Decker was the mastermind behind the plan to murder Deserae.
Decker is scheduled to be sentenced next Wednesday.
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