Parents of slain Burmese girl testify about her last day alive
Seven-year-old Hser Ner Moo started the last day of her life with noodle soup and fried eggs.
Then she danced and put on makeup.
"She thinks she's so pretty," her father, Cartoon Wah, testified Thursday on the second day of a preliminary hearing for Esar Met.
Met, 25, is charged in 3rd District Court with first-degree felony counts of aggravated murder and child kidnapping. The hearing will determine if there is enough evidence to order Met to stand trial in the March 31, 2008, slaying.
Cartoon Wah and two of his sons went to work that day on bicycles.
The girl's mother, Pearlly Wa, testified she left Hser Ner Moo with an aunt and uncle and left for an afternoon dental appointment.
"When I came back, I can't find my daughter," she said. "She was missing."
Sun Day Moo, the girl's older brother, said he was home at the time and fell asleep on the couch. When he awoke his sister was gone.
The mother, and later the father, searched around the South Salt Lake apartment complex for their missing daughter. A case worker called the police around 7 p.m. on March 31.
"That whole night I can't sleep," Wa said. "My heart is burning."
The next night, police told her of her daughter's death.
"Because of this loss, I thought I cry until I die," she said. "My heart, I cannot control my heart."
Wah testified that his wife "now has to take the depression pill or anxiety pill. I, myself, I'm always thinking about my little girl. ... Sometimes I cannot focus. I have to focus when I drive. Especially on the street, whenever I see this age of girl going to school or getting on the school bus, that really hurts my heart."
Wah called Hser Ner Moo a happy and beautiful little girl, who was quickly learning English and loved to play the part of the teacher when she was with her friends
She also loved church. "On Sunday morning she woke up and rushed to get to the church early so she can never be late to Sunday school," the father said.
Wah said his only daughter always waited for him to come home, hoping he would bring her a gift.
"Anytime I'm out at the store, I'm always thinking about her to bring her something, big or small," he said through an interpreter. "It's been missing."
On Wednesday, Met's roommates described a man who lived in the basement and rarely talked to them and never ate with the group. But in testimony Thursday, Met was described as a man who loved children.
"After my sister was released from school, he came and play with the kids because he loved kids," said Maung Then Htank, who knew Met in a refugee camp, and lived in the same South Salt Lake apartment complex the South Parc Townhomes at 2250 S. 500 East as Hser Ner Moo's family.
Met would act like an elephant and let Htank's sister, Nane We, and Hser Ner Moo ride on his back.
Nane We, now 14, said she and Hser Ner Moo also jumped rope with Met and on three occasions went to his apartment to watch movies with him.
On the morning of her disappearance, Hser Ner Moo went to Nane We's apartment to see if she wanted to play but she was asleep. Later, Htank called his friend Met to ask if he knew were the missing girl was.
"Did you take the kid with you? If you did, bring her back," Htank recalled saying. "He said he didn't."
But according to prosecutors, Met beat, raped and strangled Hser Ner Moo at his apartment.
Hser Ner Moo's disappearance at about 2 p.m. on March 31 eventually prompted hundreds of volunteers to search for the missing child before police found her body in Met's basement apartment the following night.
FBI agents found the girl face down in Met's shower, still wearing the pink shirt, pink skirt and pink coat she was wearing when she disappeared the day before.
Police have said the girl was likely dead within an hour of leaving the nearby apartment of her family.
An autopsy revealed Hser Ner Moo was clutching hair in her right hand similar to that of her accused killer. The autopsy also showed she had been beaten about the head, neck and torso. Some injuries were consistent with strangulation or suffocation.
On Wednesday, Judge William Barrett heard testimony from Met's roommates, who lived upstairs and said they rarely saw Met or talked to him.
Met had only moved into the apartment with the other four men about two weeks earlier, they said. Met was a refugee, but unlike the other men he was Burmese, not Karen.
"I was so shocked," Po Dee, Ku Nu's brother, said of learning that the child had been killed in his apartment.
The girl's family, as well as her alleged killer, are Burmese refugees.
The case against Met has been delayed numerous times as attorneys on both sides dealt with cultural and language barriers. Finding qualified interpreters also has been an issue.