SALT LAKE CITY -- A jury deliberated for about five hours Friday before finding Esar Met guilty of aggravated murder and child kidnapping in the death of 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo.
“It’s finally time that Hser Ner Moo receives justice, and she did,” said Rob Parrish, who is a Salt Lake County deputy district attorney.
The six-year-old case had been an emotional mystery for Moo’s parents, who last saw her alive on March 31, 2008, when she left home to play with friends. The next day, her body was found in the apartment Met shared with four others, in a basement shower stall.
“This is their only daughter, but they do believe justice has been served for the last couple weeks. And with the verdict, they’re pleased with that,” said Ben Pender, a family friend.
Aided by an interpreter, as they had been throughout the trial, Moo’s parents expressed both sadness and gratitude following the verdict.
“No more daughter,” said Cartoon Wah, fighting back tears as he spoke.
Standing alongside him, Moo’s mother only said, “God Bless America,” as a means to express her appreciation for the prosecutors.
In closing statements Friday, the family and members of the jury cried as Parrish showed them graphic evidence of the murder of Hser Ner Moo, urging the five women and three man panel to find Met guilty.
Parrish said the 7 year old was, “sexually assaulted, repeatedly beaten, strangled, had her arm bent and broken, and ultimately killed by a massive blow or blows to her chest.”
Met sat stone-faced throughout the closing statements, even as the pictures of the little girl’s injuries were displayed to the jury. Four of the women on the jury could be seen weeping.
“The only eyewitness to this crime is a little girl,” deputy Salt Lake County Attorney Matt Janzen told the jury. “But she can still speak to us. Her blood speaks volumes as to who killed her. Her fractured arm and the DNA under the fingernails points directly to that man there!”
Met, a Burmese refugee, was known to play with the kids in the neighborhood, a plausible explanation for the DNA, according to defense attorney Michael Peterson.
“Esar got along with everyone; he was friendly,” Peterson said. “They played chase, they played tag.”
Peterson argued that the jury should consider the possibility that one of Met’s roommates framed him for the killing.
“If there was roommate involvement here… and the rest of the clan is going to help cover it, what’s the first thing you do?” Peterson asked the jury. “Stay calm, stay together and leave the evidence where it is because it all points to (Met).”
The defense criticized South Salt Lake police for ignoring a blood stain found upstairs in the home, and at one time sought a mistrial because of it. They also asked for another mistrial on Friday, something Judge Judith Atherton denied.
“When all the evidence is placed on the table, the only conclusion is this defendant is guilty of these crimes,” Janzen told the jury. “The family testified this young girl had a loving heart. This man tore that heart apart.”
In March, both the defense and prosecution will get a chance to argue whether Met should get life without parole or 20 years to life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in May.