SALT LAKE CITY – Wednesday was day two in the trial of a Burmese refugee charged with killing a neighbor girl nearly 6 years ago.
Prosecutors said Esar Met first kidnapped then sexually assaulted 7-year old Hser Ner Moo before killing her in 2008.
The second day of the trial was dominated by emotional testimony from the girl’s parents. Her father talked about what a happy, healthy child she was, his only daughter born in a Burmese refugee camp in Thailand.
Once the family immigrated to the U.S. and settled in South Salt Lake in 2007, he said she quickly learned English and was very friendly. Hser Ner Moo disappeared March 31, 2008 after her father went to work and her mother went to a dentist appointment.
“That was the last time I saw her, and I still remember how she looked," sobbed Pearlly Wa on the witness stand.
Burmese translators helped the family testify. After an all-night search for Hser Ner Moo when she vanished, an FBI agent found her body the next day in a neighbor’s apartment.
"I observed her at the bottom of the shower, I could see her arm was in a position that was not natural," testified Detective Damon Byington of the South Salt Lake Police Department.
Hser Ner Moo's mother said she knew her neighbors, but not the defendant living in their basement.
“I never saw him, never met with him, I never talked with him," she said.
“Did he have permission to play with your daughter?," the prosecutor asked.
“No,”Pearlly Wa replied. "I always told her not to leave the apartment without me, without her father, without her brother. When late in the evening, when I don't see her, I think something really bad happened to my little girl."
Prosecutors said Hser Ner Moo's DNA is on Esar Met's jacket and his DNA is under her fingernails, proof of a violent struggle and his involvement in the girl’s death.
The defense dismisses that, saying the two had contact playing games together days before the crime. A DNA expert from the state crime lab testifies Wednesday.
Defense attorneys said anyone of Met’s four roommates could have committed the crime. Prosecutors said those roommates weren’t home and were stunned to learn a child’s body was in their basement. The roommates are scheduled to testify later in the trial, which is expected to last three weeks.