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Roommate: ‘So surprised’ when police found Utah girl’s body

Courts » Esar Met allegedly kidnapped, assaulted and killed 7-year-old girl in 2008.

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At first, the search seemed routine. Police checked in the bedrooms upstairs, which were shared among the four men, and found nothing.

Then, the officers descended to the bottom level.

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At a glance

Esar Met timeline

March 31, 2008

» 1:30 to 2 p.m.: Hser Ner Moo last seen by her family.

» 2:39 p.m.: The latest Esar Met could had left his South Salt Lake apartment to catch a bus to Cottonwood Heights, where he stayed the night at the home of his aunt and uncle.

» 3:30 to 4 p.m.: Esar Met arrives at his aunt and uncle’s home.

» 6:30 to 7 p.m.: Hser Ner Moo’s father, Cartoon Wah, knocks on the door of Esar Met’s apartment; Met’s four roommates said they hadn’t seen the girl.

» Evening: Hundreds of volunteers scour the area looking for the 7-year-old girl.

April 1, 2008:

» 7 p.m.: Hser Ner Moo’s body found in Esar Met’s basement apartment.

» 10 p.m.: Esar Met arrested at his aunt and uncle’s home.

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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A call came up from below. Police ordered the four roommates to sit still and not move.

"[Police] said Hser Ner Moo was gone, that Hser Ner Moo’s body was found in our basement," Maung Myo Mye testified through a Karen interpreter. "I was so surprised, I can’t believe that was happening."

They were taken away to be questioned at the South Salt Lake police station.

On the stand Tuesday, two of the four men recalled seeing her around the apartment — she would come by to watch movies sometimes with her big brothers, said Myint Kyi.

The others said the only had seen her playing outside in the South Parc complex, which was home to many refugee families.

None had seen her in the hours surrounding her disappearance.

But they hadn’t seen their fifth roommate, Esar Met, either.

On March 31, 2008, the day when prosecutors believe Hser Ner Moo perished, Maung Myo Mye said he left his home for work about 5:30 a.m. and did not return until 4:20 p.m.

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Myint Kyi left shortly there after — about 6 a.m. — and returned around 4:30.

Po Dee and his brother Ku Nu left for work after 7 a.m., and didn’t return home until after 5 p.m.

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

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

That means, Met would have had to kill Hser Ner Moo during a window of about an hour between the time she vanished and the time he boarded a bus to his aunt and uncle’s home in Cottonwood Heights.

Met’s defense attorneys have maintained that’s not what happened.

The lawyers, who said their client loves children and never did anything to harm Hser Ner Moo, implied his roommates know more about what happened to the girl than they’ve said.

Defense attorneys have pointed to the roommates’ seemingly indifferent attitudes toward the child’s parents when they came to the apartment door searching for the missing girl as well as the ethnic differences between the men and their client.

Maung Myo Mye, who spoke to the girl’s father the day she disappeared, said it was not clear how dire the situation was.

"He said ‘Have you seen my daughter?’ " Maung Myo Mye said of Cartoon Wah. "We said, ‘no, we didn’t see her.’ Then we went back to watch a movie."

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

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