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Utah murder victim’s family tearfully testifies about her
Trial » Esar Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008.

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Defense attorneys pressed the father on the search for his daughter.

Wah had paid an early visit to Apartment 472, where Hser Ner Moo’s body was later found. He looked for her discarded shoes at the door — a Karen tradition the girl usually obeyed — but saw none.

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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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The men who lived there with Met, at least one of whom knew the child’s family, did little to help. They told him they hadn’t seen the girl, Wah testified, then went back to watching TV.

That’s because, defense attorneys implied, the four roommates with whom Esar Met had been assigned to live may be responsible for Hser Ner Moo’s disappearance and death.

The child’s oldest brother Ker Ker Po told jurors that he knew the men in Apartment 472. He went over there to drink beer and watch movies. They were his friends.

But Ker Ker Po never met the man who lived downstairs. He saw him once, briefly, but he didn’t care to speak to him, he said, because he knew him to be a Muslim man of Indian origin.

Met’s people are different, Ker Ker Po said. They speak different languages and practice different religions. They don’t share customs. They don’t mingle.

Met, who had also been living in a Burmese refugee camp in Thailand before moving to the U.S., arrived in the apartment about a month before the slaying. The other men had been there much longer.

Defense attorneys painted a picture of Met’s relationship with his four roommates as cold — stemming from their negative perception of his ethnic background.

Hser Ner Moo’s parents said they didn’t know their daughter ever went to the apartment to play with Met. The father typically did not allow her to enter the homes of others — particularly those who were not ethnic Karen.

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As the family spoke through a translator, Met listened to one of his own, who translated their testimony into Burmese for the defendant.

His expression changed little Wednesday as the parents broke down into sobs that shook their whole bodies. He nodded occasionally, leaned forward in his seat. But he did not appear to say a word to his translator or his attorneys.

Met’s 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.

On Tuesday, prosecutors showed graphic photos of the girl crumpled and bent to fit into the bathtub in Met’s basement apartment. She was lying facedown in her own blood.

This, officers testified, was how they found her at about 10 p.m. on April 1, 2008. At that point, she had been missing for nearly 32 hours. Before the police told them what they found, Hser Ner Moo’s family had begun to fear the worst.

"At first, I had hope that she would come home and she would be somewhere in the apartment complex," the mother said. "Later in the evening, when I didn’t see her, I thought, ‘This is big. Something really bad happened to my family.’ "

The child’s aunt, Eh Wah, had been asked to care for the girl and her two brothers while their mother was at a dentist appointment the afternoon of the day she disappeared.

The child was happy and boisterous, singing as she ran up and down the stairs of her family’s home. At 1 p.m., the aunt testified, the girl sat with her to supervise the feeding of her infant brother.

"I was the new babysitter and she was my teacher," Eh Wah said, smiling.

That was the last time she saw her. Moments later, the girl called out asking if she could go play. She didn’t specify where or with whom.

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