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(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Esar Met, left, sits with his interpreter in Judge Judith Atherton's courtroom in Salt Lake City Tuesday January 14, 2014 for his murder trial. Esar Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo, who disappeared on March 31, 2008.
New evidence prompts mistrial motion in Esar Met’s murder trial
Courts » Stain in upstairs area, presumed by prosecutors to be juice, turns out to be blood.
First Published Jan 15 2014 11:20 am • Last Updated Jan 15 2014 10:31 pm

The drops of blood are few, the skin cells found beneath a child’s fingernails microscopic in measure, but these small details may prove to be a big deal in the case against accused killer Esar Met.

Prosecutors presented DNA evidence to a jury Wednesday that showed four small spots of blood on the defendant’s denim jacket belonged to a girl whose body was found battered and broken in his basement bathroom on April 1, 2008.

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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:

» 4 a.m.: Detectives knock on the door of Apartment 472 , get no response.

» 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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Samples taken from under the fingernails of the slain girl, 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo, matched a genetic profile shared by Met.

With no eyewitnesses who saw Met with the child the day she was killed, prosecutors have pointed to this evidence as proof that Met killed the girl.

Met, 27, 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 in prison.

But defense attorneys countered that the girl’s blood on the back of Met’s jacket proved little.

No blood was found on the garment’s front or its sleeves, DNA specialist Chad Grundy said. Met’s pants and white T-shirt were clean.

The jacket, Met’s family testified, was the only one he owned.

The defense has suggested Met’s clothing was stained well before Hser Ner Moo disappeared, during a game of elephant ride, in which Met would carry the child and her friend atop his back.

Met’s lawyers have said the skin cells collected from under Hser Ner Moo’s fingernails were also a result of such play, wherein the girl may have accidentally scratched Met’s skin.

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"Is it possible if someone were giving a child a ride on their back and the child’s nose began to bleed that you would end up with four spots of blood in a line like this?" West asked.

"I can’t say that it’s not, because it could be possible," Grundy said.

But prosecutors suggested the skin cells and blood drops hint at something more sinister.

Holli Barbera, a registered nurse, was called to examine Esar Met’s body for signs that a sexual assault may have taken place after Met was arrested on April 1, 2008.

She testified Wednesday that Met’s skin showed signs of redness and scratches. His right shoulder was bruised, marks lined his legs.

"These marks are much smaller than I would expect to see if it were an adult scratch," Barbera testified. "It could be [from a child]."

Defense attorneys asked whether he could have suffered these injuries from being handled roughly by the officers who arrested him.

Some, Barbera said, could have. The others, defense attorneys implied, may have been caused by Met himself.

Prosecutors have alleged Met violently assaulted Hser Ner Moo physically and sexually before killing the girl and leaving her crumpled body in his blood-stained bathroom.

The scratch marks on his legs, the prosecution said, were a result of Hser Ner Moo scratching Met during that assault.

No DNA evidence was found to suggest a sexual assault took place, experts testified. But there wouldn’t have to be any for a sexual assault to have taken place, a child abuse expert told the 11-member jury last week. Physical injuries to her genitals suggested a violent assault with "forceful penetration," testified Lori Frasier.

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