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Burmese refugee no stranger to girl he allegedly killed
Trial » Esar Met is accused of killing Hser Ner Moo, 7, in 2008.

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Peterson went on to imply that it was one of these men — the four roommates with whom Esar Met had been assigned to live when he entered this country as a refugee just one month before the slaying — who may be responsible for Hser Ner Moo’s disappearance and death.

Met, who had been living in a Burmese refugee camp in Thailand, moved into the apartment about a month before the slaying. The other men had lived there much longer.

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A Missing Peace

Reporter Julia Lyon traveled to Thailand to trace the journeys of Hser Ner Moo and Esar Met from the Mae La refugee camp to Salt Lake City. Her series, reported in collaboration with the International Reporting Project, also explored the challenges their families and other refugees face in America. See the series at http://extras.sltrib.com/thailand.

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Hser Ner Moo’s family came to Utah in August 2007 from the same refugee camp.

Officers who responded to the concerned family’s home said they immediately had a "bad feeling" about the case.

"Call it a gut feeling, call it a mother’s reaction — it was just immediate," said former South Salt Lake police officer Jacob Burton, as he wiped his eyes and tried to steady his voice. "This wasn’t a normal missing child who hadn’t returned from school or had wandered to a friend’s house."

On April 1, 2008, the girl was found face down in Met’s shower, still in the pink shirt, pink skirt and pink coat she had worn the day before. Her shoes, photos shown in court revealed, were strewn across the room — one in the toilet and the other on the tile floor.

"Evidence will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Esar Met killed Hser Ner Moo after he sexually assaulted her and detained her," Janzen told the jury. "The four men who lived with him, his roommates, were absolutely surprised there was blood and the body of a child in their basement. They had no idea."

But defense attorneys painted a picture of Met’s relationship with his four roommates as cold — stemming from their being from different ethnic groups.

The roommates were arrested on April 1, 2008, but later released.

Police said at the time that the four men were not home when the girl was killed and did not know her body was in Met’s basement bathroom.

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Met was arrested at about 10 p.m. on April 1, 2008, at his aunt’s Cottonwood Heights home. The aunt, Mi Cho, told police her nephew had arrived the previous day at about 3:30 or 4 p.m., and had spent the night on the floor, according to charging documents.

Burton, who aided in Met’s arrest, said he did not try to hide or run from officers.

Eleven jurors — comprised of five men and six women — were chosen Monday to hear the three-week-long trial.

Just hours into the first day, prosecutors presented a graphic photo of Hser Ner Moo’s body in the tub where she was found.

Her limbs bent at odd angles, the child lay in her own blood.

FBI Agent James Lamadrid said he called out to her to see if she was alive: "Hser Ner Moo? The FBI is here."


Police have said the girl was likely dead within an hour of leaving her family’s nearby apartment.

South Salt Lake firefighter and paramedic Andrew Maurer, who responded to the apartment on April 1, 2008, testified that Met’s basement "looked like a horror scene."

His supervisor, Captain Paramedic Paul Resmussen, testified that "for such a small girl, there was a lot of blood — all over."

Met has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

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