LOGAN — As he was confronted in court by the girl he plotted with a friend to kill, 17-year-old Jayzon Decker didn't flinch.
The teen stared straight ahead as Deserae Turner, seated in front of him and holding her aching head, described the irreparable damage done by the bullet that was fired into her skull on Decker's signal.
"What kind of person wants to experience the feeling of ending another's life, watching another person take their last breath?" Deserae asked. "A person who is pure evil."
The slender blond boy sat straight up as Deserae and her parents addressed the judge Wednesday, his eyes fixed on an empty space in the courtroom, moving slightly as he bounced a foot rapidly up and down.
The image painted a stark contrast to the gunman in the case, 17-year-old Colter Peterson, who hunched forward weeping and shaking with emotion last week as he watched Deserae and her parents speak at his sentencing hearing before a different judge.
Decker remained stone faced as he was ordered to spend at least 15 years and potentially the rest of his life in prison for trying to take Deserae's life.
After handing down the sentence, 1st District Judge Brian Cannell commented on Decker's stoic demeanor.
"I tried to read you today. I tried to see if you were past feeling," Cannell said. "I don't know what's scarier — the actual act, or not understanding it, or the lack of emotion."
Decker did become emotional, however, as his mother, Billie Jean Decker, pleaded on his behalf before the judge. The mother described her efforts to forgive her son, whom she had always known as a kind boy who played with his cousins, cared for an injured bird and opened doors for the women at church.
"Every soul, including my son's, has worth," the mother said. "I ask as his mother, your honor, be just for Deserae and her family, but also have mercy on my son, who still has good in him."
Decker continued to wipe his eyes as he stood to offer a brief apology to Deserae, now 15, and her family.
"I don't really know what to say, but I'm sorry about the things I have done and for the pain I have caused," Decker said. "I know what I did was wrong, I want to make it right if possible."
Though Decker isn't the one who shot Deserae, prosecutors argued for the maximum possible prison sentence, emphasizing he was the first to suggest hurting the girl and then kept the shell casing from the attack as a memento.
"What he did to Deserae was unquestioningly evil," prosecutor Spencer Walsh told the judge. "It is not in the interest of justice to reduce this defendant's sentence in any way."
Decker's attorney, Shannon Demler, asked for leniency for his client, insisting Decker was less culpable for the crime, has no criminal history, and is too young for his brain to be fully matured or developed. According to Demler, Decker found himself caught up in Peterson's plan and was too frightened to do anything about it.
Decker pleaded guilty as an adult to attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. A charge of aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, and three additional counts of obstructing justice were dismissed as part of the deal.
Cannell agreed with prosecutors, however, saying that as he scoured the law and the details of the case, he saw no option to impose a lesser sentence for Decker's crimes, sentencing him to at least 15 years and potentially life in prison.
"I cannot find you are any less culpable than the codefendant, legally or morally," the judge said.
He did, however, order that an additional prison term of one to 15 years for obstructing justice run concurrent with the sentence for attempted aggravated murder. Prosecutors had asked that the sentences run back-to-back, putting the boy behind bars for a minimum of 16 years.
The judge went on to praise Deserae as "indomitable," expressing his hope that she will someday be able to move past her feelings of hate and frustration to find joy in her life.
Decker and Peterson were 16 when they lured Deserae to an out-of-the-way section of a dry canal on Feb. 16, 2017, as part of a plot to kill the girl. During a preliminary hearing for Peterson in March, police testified the two teens had conspired to "get rid of" Deserae when they grew tired of the then 14-year-old girl's messages on social media.
The teens armed themselves with knives after they agreed that slitting Deserae's throat would be quieter, but brought along a .22-caliber pistol as a backup plan, according to charging documents.
While Peterson admitted to shooting Deserae in the back of the head, prosecutors have alleged that in order to keep Deserae nearby until the coast was clear, Decker pretended to drop a ring in the mud and asked the girl to help him find it. When the moment came to put the plot in motion, Decker was responsible for giving an agreed upon signal to Peterson, prosecutors said.
The boys then stole Deserae's belongings and left her lying in a muddy stretch of the Smithfield canal.
In her statement Wednesday, Deserae noted she and Decker had barely spoken before the day of the shooting.
"What do you have against me? You don't even know me," Deserae said.
The girl survived the cold night for eight hours until she was found by two family friends, but Deserae suffers permanent pain and disability from the bullet still lodged in her skull and the damage it did to her brain.
As she did last week, Deserae described in detail the pain and infirmity she grapples with daily, and the grueling future that the boys' actions have left them all with. In the years that they should be studying, driving and dating, the two boys will be locked behind bars, and she will be a prisoner in her own body.
She offered no pity for the teen, however.
"When you realize how terrible your life is, don't you dare blame me for your crappy life. You helped plan a murder," Deserae insisted.
Following the hearing, Deserae spoke to reporters outside the courtroom, saying she had been thinking about her statements to Peterson in court last week when she told the boy, "I hate you."
"I thought a lot about these words and this is not who I am," Deserae explained. "I realized that we all make mistakes but that doesn't change how much our Heavenly Father and our parents love us. I realized that I don’t hate these boys, I hate what they did to me. I want us to follow the Savior, be kind, love one another and choose good."15 comments on this story
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. As part of the agreement, Peterson was prepared to testify against Decker, if the other teen's case went to trial.
Last week, he was given an identical sentence as Decker. Both boys will be allowed to remain in a juvenile facility until their 18th birthday — Peterson in October and Decker in December — when they will be transferred to the prison.