More than two years after being shot in the head and abandoned for dead, Deserae Turner, 17, was crowned homecoming queen of her Utah high school.
A few moments in a juvenile girl’s life are both as thrilling and nerve-wracking as high school homecoming.
With it comes picking the perfect dress, acing a complex hairstyle, indulging parents in awkward photos with a date and dancing all night until the heels come off.
Deserae Turner appeared close to never feeling any of that.
Typically, Deserae wouldn’t worry much about a school dance. But even she had to accept the nod for the queen was interesting.
Deserae told KSTU, “I was just a homecoming queen; there’s nothing special about that. But then, if you think about what I’ve been through then yes, it’s very special.”
Deserae was 14 when she was shot in the head by her friend, Colter Peterson, in February 2017. He and co-conspirator Jayzon Decker, both 17 at the time, were convicted to 15 years to life in prison for the shooting.
Prosecutors told Peterson lured Deserae to a canal in Smithfield, Utah, but it was Decker’s idea to try to murder her. The pair left her for dead, stole her money and spent it at a nearby convenience store.
She laid in the cold canal for eight hours before she was found.
Deserae’s been in recovery ever since she was shot. She’s had 10 brain surgeries and endures intense physical therapy to train the left side of her body how to move again after the bullet punctured the right side of her brain.
She regularly visits a chiropractor to soothe her chronic pain and sits in a hyperbaric chamber to return oxygen to her healing brain, KTSU reported in 2018.
But when she was told she would be crowned homecoming queen, all she could think about was her outfit.
“‘Oh my gosh, I need a dress, I need someone to do my hair, I need my makeup,'” she remembered thinking, “bouncing around” her house after she found out.
From there, the night was perfect. She took a close friend, Logan Matz, as a date, her mother April wrote on Facebook. She walked down the football field and met the homecoming king, Case Gehring, who held her hand to help her keep balance. The two shared a dance as their classmates lined the outskirts of the dance floor.
All that’s enough to make a girl feel special, Deserae said.
“It just gives you that comfort and love that, yes, I am truly loved,” she said. “Everybody needs to know that feeling.”