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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Esar Met enters the court during his trial in Judge Judith Atherton's courtroom at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Thursday, January 16, 2014. Met is on trial for allegedly kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo, who disappeared March 31, 2008.
Defense rests in trial against Utah man accused of killing girl
Courts » The Burmese refugee is charged in Hser Ner Moo’s death.
First Published Jan 16 2014 10:57 am • Last Updated Jan 17 2014 08:31 am

Only one man knows where Esar Met was when a 7-year-old girl took her last breath.

Was he standing over her, as prosecutors have alleged, having brutally assaulted and slain Hser Ner Moo in the basement of his South Salt Lake home?

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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 have 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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Or was he somewhere else, as defense attorneys have said? Gone to a bus, perhaps, attempting to navigate unfamiliar routes to the home of his aunt and uncle in Cottonwood Heights.

Only Met can answer these questions.

But on the eighth day of his trial, Met declined to testify in his own defense.

Speaking through a Burmese interpreter Thursday, Met invoked his right to remain silent, telling an 11-person jury he would not take the stand to answer to the charges against him: first-degree felony child kidnapping and aggravated murder.

Defense attorneys rested their case before 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton without calling a single witness.

The prosecution and defense will make their final arguments to the jury Friday morning.

If convicted, the 27-year-old man could spend the rest of his life in prison.

To reach a verdict, jurors will be asked to weigh gruesome crime-scene photographs, DNA evidence taken from the girl’s fingernails and Met’s denim jacket and the testimony of 41 witnesses who took the stand over the eight days of proceedings.

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Hser Ner Moo disappeared from her family’s home in the largely refugee community of South Parc on March 31, 2008, after spending the morning running and playing with her brother.

The next night, law enforcement officers found her: lifeless and bloody, lying facedown in the bathtub in the basement of a nearby apartment.

Her 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.

A child abuse expert testified last week the injuries were among the worst she’d ever seen.

Although Met has not been charged accordingly, prosecutors allege he sexually assaulted the girl before killing her.

An examination of the child’s genitals revealed internal wounds that Fraiser said hinted at "forceful penetration" that would have caused the girl excruciating pain.

An autopsy later revealed that despite the child’s numerous injuries, it was a tear in the girl’s heart that sealed her fate.

Met was arrested on April 1, 2008, at his aunt’s home in Cottonwood Heights, where he had spent the day playing with his young cousins.

Those who knew him testified he was always surrounded by children.

"I’ve known him since we were [in refugee camps] together in Thailand," testified Maung Then Htank, the older brother of Hser Ner Moo’s best childhood friend. "He loved kids. He was always playing with kids."

This access, prosecutors have said, gave him the opportunity to abduct and slaughter Hser Ner Moo.

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