Experts: Murdered Utah girl Hser Ner Moo died a painful death
The last moments of the little girl's life were pain.
After 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo went missing March 31, 2008, from the South Salt Lake apartment complex where her family lived, the child suffered blunt force trauma that bruised her body, gashed the side of her head, snapped her left forearm and tore the atrium of her heart.
"This is a little girl that was badly beaten," Utah Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey said.
Grey was one of three expert witnesses who testified Tuesday in 3rd District Court, as the second week of the preliminary hearing for Esar Met, the man charged in the 2008 slaying, began. The seven-day hearing will determine if there is enough evidence against the 25-year-old Met to move forward to trial.
"The injuries I found were extensive," Grey said, adding that "all of the damage played a role" in the girl's death.
Lori Frasier, a Primary Children's Medical Center pediatrician who examined Hser Ner Moo's body for signs of sexual assault, said the girl had serious internal bruising.
"These would have been very painful," Frasier said, "maybe the worst pain she'd ever felt in her life."
Throughout the day, Met's defense team probed different causes for the girl's injuries, asking questions and posing hypotheticals to the expert witnesses.
Defense attorney Michael Peterson asked whether the genital bruising could have been caused by a kick, or if it could have occurred after her death from blood pooling. He also questioned if Hser Ner Moo's external bruises could have been caused by a struggle and a fall down a flight of stairs, or if asthma might have been a factor in her death.
In each case, Grey and Frasier said the scenarios seemed unlikely.
Met, a Burmese refugee, is charged with first-degree felony counts of aggravated murder and child kidnapping in connection with the girl's slaying.
According to prosecutors, Met beat, raped and strangled Hser Ner Moo in his apartment at the South Parc Townhomes, 2250 S. 500 East.
The girl, a Burmese refugee who also lived in the apartment complex, disappeared March 31, prompting hundreds of volunteers to search for the missing child before police found her body in Met's apartment the next night.
The girl was face down in Met's shower, still in the pink shirt, pink skirt and pink coat she was wearing the day before. Police have said the girl was likely dead within an hour of leaving her family's nearby apartment.
Hser Ner Moo's blood was found in the basement, where Met lived. And, Chad Grundy, a forensic scientist with the Utah State Crime Lab, said the girl's blood was also on the denim jacket Met was wearing when he was arrested the night of April 1, at a relative's home in the Ft. Union area of Salt Lake County.
Last week, Judge William Barrett heard from Hser Ner Moo's parents, who testified about events leading up to the disappearance of their daughter.
The girl's mother, Pearlly Wa, testified she left Hser Ner Moo with an aunt and uncle and left for an afternoon dental appointment.
The mother and later the father, Cartoon Wah, searched around the South Salt Lake apartment complex for their missing daughter. A caseworker called the police around 7 p.m. on March 31.
The next night, police told the mother 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."
Met's upstairs roommates have described the defendant as a man who lived in the basement and rarely talked to them and never ate with the group. But in other testimony, 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.
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.
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