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Defense rests in trial against Utah man accused of killing girl
Courts » The Burmese refugee is charged in Hser Ner Moo’s death.

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But defense attorneys have argued that Met was gentle and caring with children, not the kind of man who would have killed the girl.

"He took care of us and loved us, just like little sisters," testified Hser Ner Moo’s best friend Nane We.

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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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Instead, the defense cast suspicion on Met’s four roommates, who slept in bedrooms on the second floor of the shared South Parc apartment.

The roommates, who, like Met and Hser Ner Moo, are Burmese refugees, testified under oath on Tuesday that they had nothing to do with the child’s disappearance or murder.

Their relationship with Met was cold — most didn’t know his name at the time of his arrest, despite having lived with him for about a month. The men are of a different ethnic origin than Met and spoke different languages. Often, they wouldn’t even stay in the same room.

Despite an increased police presence and large-scale community search for the missing girl, several roommates said they didn’t realize the child was missing or thought to be in danger.

When police asked to search their home — Apartment 472 — in the evening hours of April 1, 2008, they granted them entry. They were watching a movie, the men said, and didn’t realize something was wrong until officers loaded them into police cruisers and took them in for questioning.

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

Prosecutors offered official time cards indicating all four roommates had been at work around the time Hser Ner Moo vanished.

Met, who was unable to immediately find work after arriving in the U.S. on Feb. 28, 2008, has no such proof of his whereabouts.

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But 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.

On Wednesday, prosecutors wrapped up their case against Met with DNA evidence they said proves Met killed the girl.

Four small spots of blood on the defendant’s dark jean jacket and microscopic samples of skin cells taken from under the slain girl’s fingernails were tested for DNA in the murder’s aftermath.

The blood, which dotted the back of Met’s jacket, was determined to be Hser Ner Moo’s.

DNA expert Chad Grundy testified there is little chance it belonged to anyone else — about 1 in 3.9 quadrillion.

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, Grundy said. Met’s pants and white T-shirt were clean.

The jacket, Met’s family testified, was the only one he owned. He wore it all the time.

Defense attorneys suggested Met’s clothing was stained well before Hser Ner Moo disappeared during a game the two often played, in which Met would pretend to be an elephant carrying the child and her friend atop his back.

They suggested she may have gotten a bloody nose or had a cut on her hand — which her family confirmed she did — that bled onto Met’s coat.

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