Esar Met kidnapped, murdered 7-year-old neighbor girl, jury says
Keith Johnson, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After nearly six years of drawn-out legal battles, a jury on Friday found Esar Met guilty of murdering and kidnapping a 7-year-old neighbor girl.
"It's finally time Hser Ner Moo receive justice, and she did today," said Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Rob Parrish, who began working the case just two days after Hser's body was found in 2008.
A five-woman, three-man jury took about five hours before unanimously reaching guilty verdicts on charges of aggravated murder and child kidnapping, first-degree felonies, in the March 31, 2008, death of the Myanmarese refugee girl. Prosecutors say he also raped the child, but he wasn't charged with that crime.
Hser's family, including her father, mother and brothers, wiped away tears as they sat in the courtroom listening to the verdict.
Outside the courtroom, parents Cartoon Wah and Pearlly Wa, who were aided by interpreters during their testimonies on the witness stand, attempted to say a couple of words in English to reporters.
But it was their tears and emotions that spoke louder than words.
"No more daughter," was all Hser's father, Cartoon Wah, could say as he wiped away his tears.
His wife showed her appreciation for prosecutors and jury by declaring, "God bless America."
Family friend Ben Pender also expressed gratitude to the prosecutors and the jury on behalf of the family.
"The truth came out over the past couple of weeks and everybody was able to see the truth in regards to this," he said. "They do believe justice has been served."
Met stood without emotion, as he had through most of the trial, occasionally looking down as the verdict was read and an interpreter stood next to him translated.
When Met, 26, is sentenced on May 7, he will face either 20 years to life in prison, or a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors decided last year not to seek the death penalty because of language barriers, the fact that the case had stalled for so long and other difficulties.
Met's attorneys left the courtroom through a back door without commenting. But Parrish said he was pleased with the outcome.
"It's been a long, long time coming, but we're very pleased with the way we saw the evidence come in and the work of the jury which was really just nothing short of amazing with the difficult case like this," he said.
Parrish declined to talk about how the case had affected him personally, but conceded he became a little choked up while delivering closing arguments earlier in the day.
"I always do. My speciality is child physical abuse and child homicide and it's impossible to do one of these cases without getting emotional. The day that I don't get emotional in some way, I'll probably retire," he said.
When he retires, Parrish is sure this case will stand out in his career. "Never been one like it, probably never be one like it again," he said.
Before reaching their verdict, jurors were asked by attorneys to consider whether there was another logical explanation for Hser's death, or if common sense dictated that Met was guilty of kidnapping, raping and killing her.
"She's only dead because of one selfish act by the defendant to satisfy his sexual desire," Parrish told the jury during his closing arguments. "This was not an accident."
But defense attorney Michael Peterson asked the jury to consider the case from Met's point of view.
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