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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Esar Met, center, is brought into Judge Judith Atherton's courtroom during his trial for allegedly kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo, who disappeared March 31, 2008. Met's trial was at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Monday, January 13, 2014.
Utah medical examiner: Young victim suffered lethal heart tear

Defendant, who showed little reaction during graphic testimony, has pleaded not guilty.

First Published Jan 13 2014 09:08 am • Last Updated Jan 14 2014 10:41 am

The child’s suffering likely didn’t last more than an hour.

But in that time, Utah’s chief medical examiner testified Monday, Hser Ner Moo suffered more than a dozen "excruciating" injuries, including a fatal tear to the girl’s heart.

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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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On the fifth day of testimony, Todd Grey was called as a witness in the trial of Esar Met, a Burmese refugee accused of kidnapping, assaulting and killing the 7-year-old girl in 2008

He walked an 11-person jury through each wound: bruises to the child’s face, back and chest, internal bleeding from her skull and her heart, her lungs, kidney and pancreas were scraped and bruised, her left arm broken in two places.

In an autopsy performed on April 2, 2008 — the day after Hser Ner Moo was found dead in a South Salt Lake basement apartment — Grey ruled that the sum of these injuries caused the child’s death.

The wound to the girl’s heart, a tear in its right atrium, was the most lethal.

"This would have been excruciating pain," Grey said. "This was a homicide, a death due to an intentional action by another person."

The child’s face was bruised a deep purple, with a scratch on her left temple just above her eye. The girl’s left forearm, which was broken in two places, was unnaturally bent at a near-right angle. Scratches and marks lined her chest, her back and her neck.

It was not clear how the child suffered such severe injuries, Grey said, but several were likely caused by a blunt object hitting or being pressed against her body. Marks around Hser Ner Moo’s neck suggested asphyxia, and Grey said it was possible that she was strangled.

Met, 27, calmly sat through the graphic testimony Monday morning, showing little response to images of the child’s battered corpse.


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Met is charged in 3rd District Court with first-degree felony child kidnapping and aggravated murder. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Prosecutors decided to forgo seeking the death penalty against Met last year to speed up the proceedings in the nearly 6-year-old case.

Though severe, Grey said, Hser Ner Moo’s external wounds did not compare to those she suffered internally.

Her lungs were bruised — apparently from being scraped against her spine — and her pancreas, kidney and heart were also damaged.

Grey could not say how the injury to her heart occurred, though it’s possible pressure to her breastplate caused the organ to rupture.

Once that happened, causing blood to leak out of the heart and into the chest cavity, Grey said, she would have been dead in a matter of moments.

During cross-examination by the defense, Grey said he couldn’t be sure what time the girl died.

It was likely a minimum of 12 hours before she was found, which was at about 7 p.m. on April 1, 2008, Grey testified, but it could have been as much as a day and a half before.

According to testimony by Sgt. Troy McCombe, the case manager, Met would have had to kill Hser Ner Moo in an hour window between the time she vanished and the time he boarded a bus to his aunt and uncle’s home in Cottonwood Heights.

Met, who bumped into his uncle on a bus the afternoon of March 31, 2008, would have had to leave the South Parc apartment complex where he lived no later than 2:39 p.m. to catch that bus, McCombe testified.

Hser Ner Moo was last seen by her family sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m. that day.

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