SALT LAKE CITY -- Nearly six years after 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo was murdered in South Salt Lake, her accused killer is finally on trial.
Prosecutors say the girl's neighbor, a Burmese refugee, kidnapped, raped and murdered the child.
On Tuesday, the first day of testimony, nine witnesses testified. They were mostly law enforcement who joined hundreds of volunteers searching for the missing girl back in 2008 only to find her brutally murdered.
Just a few hours into the testimony, prosecutors displayed a graphic photo of 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo's body in the shower of the neighbor’s apartment. For paramedic Andrew Maurer, it was a painful flashback to April 1, 2008.
“It just looked like a horror scene to me as I'm walking down going towards the bathroom, I knew sort of what we were going into," Mauer said.
There was blood on the wall and the carpet leading up to the defendant's bathroom. FBI agent James Lamadrid was the first to find her body after she disappeared the day before.
"When I first saw her, I called out to her, ‘Hser Ner Moo, the FBI is here.’ I didn't get any reaction physically or verbally," Lamadrid said.
The defendant, 27-year-old Esar Met, sat in court emotionless. He’s a Burmese refugee who moved to South Salt Lake a month before the murder. Met was Hser Ner Moo's neighbor.
"This defendant killed Hser Ner Moo after sexually assaulting her," said prosecutor Matthew Janzen in his opening argument.
Janzen says DNA evidence on Met’s clothes and under the Hser Ner Moo’s fingernails proves Met is guilty. But the defense dismisses that, saying the defendant and victim played together just days before the crime.
"What we have is a collection of circumstances," said defense attorney Michael Peterson.
Peterson suggests one of Esar Met's four roommates could have kidnapped and killed the little girl.
"I will deconstruct the picture the state is putting together and reconstruct it another way that's consistent with a verdict of not guilty."
Investigators dismiss the theory that other roommates could have committed the crime. Police say they were not home and were shocked to learn a child’s body was in the apartment.
The trial is a long time coming. Part of the reason it’s taken almost six years is because there were numerous tests over concerns about the defendant’s mental capacity. It also took a while to find qualified Burmese translators.
Day two of the trial, Wednesday, is expected to be emotional as Hser Ner Moo’s mother, father and brothers take the stand. They are among 11 witnesses scheduled.