Girl may have suffered abuse for an hour before death, medical examiner says
SALT LAKE CITY — The state's chief medical examiner testified Monday that a 7-year-old girl found dead in a neighbor's apartment ultimately died of a tear in her heart.
The injury occurred during abuse that the child may have suffered for up to an hour.
Dr. Todd Grey performed the autopsy on Hser Ner Moo on April 2, 2008, the day after her body was discovered in the basement of a South Salt Lake apartment. Esar Met, 26, lived in the basement of that apartment and is on trial for aggravated murder and child kidnapping, first-degree felonies, in the young girl's death.
Hser walked away from her home the afternoon of March 31, 2008. She was reported missing within hours, and her body was found the next day in a shower of the apartment Met shared with four others.
Grey testified Monday against a backdrop of graphic photographs and animations detailing Hser's numerous injuries, including bruises to her face, neck, chest, back and arm. The bones in her left forearm and wrist had also snapped completely.
"The majority of injuries I found were blunt force injuries — contusions, bruises, scrapes, lacerations or tears, as well as fractures," Grey said. "Nothing that explained her death related to a natural condition."
He said most of the injuries appeared to have been sustained before the girl's death.
Evidence in her eye and neck suggested strangulation. But the "most lethal" injury was a tear in the right atrium of her heart.
"She didn't have long to live after this injury was sustained," Grey said. "Whether the other injuries occurred while she was dying, I can't exclude that but this was the injury that essentially sealed her fate."
He estimated that she would have died within minutes of the injury, but that the abuse could have lasted as long as an hour. He said a blunt force injury to her chest likely pressed her chest plate and ribs into her heart, causing the tear.
There was no evidence the injuries could have been caused by a single blow, and Grey classified the death as a homicide caused by a "summation" of the girl's injuries.
Mi Cho, Met's aunt, said her nephew came to her home unannounced the same afternoon the young girl went missing.
"Nothing was really happening," she said. "He played with the kids, we watched a movie."
Later, she said, she answered the telephone and it was someone asking for Met. She said she stayed in the kitchen and overheard his portion of the call.
"'I don't know,'" she recalled hearing him say. "'I didn't bring her with me, she was not with me. She did not come with me.'"
She said Met told her he was referring to a girl he used to play with and reported that her mother was looking for her. Later, another person called and said the police wanted the address of her home. Cho said Met handed her the phone and she provided the address. Met was unfazed.
"We just went back to our table and eating," she said.
She and her daughter, Pa De Dar, testified that Met was wearing the same denim jacket and pants as seen in a photo taken after his arrest. Cho said he arrived and slept in the clothes.
Police arrived soon after and ordered Met and Cho's husband to the ground. Once Met was identified, he was arrested.
As a member of the Joint Criminal Apprehension Team, officer Deke Taylor said they responded to Cho's Cottonwood Heights home with as many as 50 officers to arrest Met. They broke down a back door and immediately saw three adults and some children. Met wasn't among them, but soon came into the kitchen.
"(He was) walking at a fast pace and continued to, even though I was motioning down and pointing a weapon at him," Taylor said. "I physically took him by the neck and put my pistol in his face and forced him to the ground."
Met didn't fight him, but Taylor said he was concerned by the lack of compliance. A Social Security card with Met's name was in the man's back pocket.
Prosecutors have argued that the girl's blood was found on Met's jacket and his DNA on her fingernails. Defense attorneys have contended that the evidence could have come from normal horseplay and have raised questions about the other men living in Met's apartment.
The jury trial is scheduled to continue through Jan. 24.
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