LOGAN, Utah (AP) — The mother of a Utah teenager accused of helping his friend plot to kill a 14-year-old girl testified Monday that her son has long struggled with academic and developmental issues as she and his attorney attempted to persuade a judge to reject the prosecution’s request to move the case to adult court.
The 16-year-old should be tried in juvenile court — where there’s a greater emphasis on rehabilitation — because of his age, lack of criminal history and the fact that he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, said defense attorney Shannon Demler during a hearing in Logan.
The victim, Deserae Turner, 14, nearly died after being shot in the head and left in a ditch in the small northern Utah town of Smithfield.
Demler said his client was less involved than the alleged shooter. “He did not arrange for her to come to the canal or anything such as this, and in fact, there is no evidence that he was part of the planning or part of the scheme,” said Demler, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Deputy Cache County Attorney Spencer Walsh countered that though the teenager didn’t pull the trigger, he conocted a plan to slit Turner’s throat and when that didn’t happen, urged his friend to shoot her on the day of the incident.
Walsh called the bullet casing found in the teenager’s room “some kind of sadistic trophy.”
Juvenile Court Judge Angela Fonnesbeck is expected to make a ruling at the conclusion of a two-day hearing.
The teenager and his friend, also 16, have been charged with attempted aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and obstruction of justice in the attack on Deserae. A hearing to determine if the case for second suspect will be moved to adult court is scheduled for a later date.
The teenagers targeted the girl because they were annoyed she was texting them, authorities have said.
The Associated Press is not naming the boys because they are juveniles.
The AP is part of a media coalition that persuaded a judge to keep the proceedings open to the public.
Deserae was upbeat when she spoke at a news conference earlier this month on the day she left a hospital where she had been since she was found in the ditch on Feb. 17. She and and her parents declined to talk about her injuries or the circumstances of the shooting. But she said she’s happy to be alive and that she’s “tougher than a bullet.”
In court in Logan on Monday, the teen suspect’s mother said problems began for her son when he and his twin were born prematurely. He suffered from some hearing loss, struggled to read and has dealt with poor grades.
The mother said her son tried to break her arm during an argument in a car about a month before the shooting, but she said that wasn’t typical behavior.
Psychologist Randal Oster said the teen’s ADHD makes him more impulsive than typical teens. Oster said the boy has normal intelligence, but he struggles to process information.
Walsh, the prosecutor, criticized Oster for not asking the teenager about the shooting or reading the police report and focusing only on if he can read and pay attention.
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