LOGAN, Utah (AP) — More than two years after two classmates shot her in the head and left her for dead, Deserae Turner walked onto her high school field in Utah to cheers from thousands of people.
She had been named homecoming queen, and everything about her reign was improbable.
After 10 brain surgeries, Turner has defied doctors’ expectations, down to her ability to walk down a flight of stairs at the homecoming assembly and step onto the dance floor with the king.
“She had to relearn everything,” said her mother, April Turner. “She is the most determined person I have ever known, and I saw it in her even as a toddler.”
Fellow students at Green Canyon High School in North Logan elected Deserae Turner royalty last week, The Herald Journal reported. Her injuries have prevented her from going to school full time, so she attends for three hours a day and takes online classes. She’s still on track to graduate with her classmates.
“It is definitely hard. There are times when I just want to go out and ride (horses),” Turner said. “I just want to be normal again. I just want to be me. But this is me now, and I just have to embrace it.”
A 14-year-old Turner was shot in the back of the head and left in a ditch in February 2017. Colter D. Peterson and Jayzon Decker, both 17, were sentenced to at least 15 years in prison last year for the shooting in Smithfield, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City.
The pair concocted a plan while playing video games and discussing their desire to “get rid” of Turner, who was messaging Peterson on social media, prosecutors said. They lured her to a dry canal bed behind a high school in a town neighboring where she goes to school.
Turner was elected queen in voting by nearly 1,400 students, the school said. She got dressed up and put on a crown for a series of events last week _ fitting in some naps in between to conserve her energy.
“It was a lot, but it was so worth it,” Turner said. “I truly wish every one of us high school girls would be able to experience such a magical night.”