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Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Cartoon Wah, center, the father of Hser Nay Moo, is joined by his sons KyiKyi Po, left, and Kerker Po outside their home Wednesday, the day after Hser's body was found in a nearby apartment. He tearfully thanked those who spent so much time looking for his daughter.

SOUTH SALT LAKE — They all lived for years in separate refugee camps in Thailand before finally getting the opportunity to come to America to start new, and hopefully better, lives.

Now, one family is mourning the loss of their young daughter while another family does not believe their son, who is sitting in a jail cell, is responsible for her death.

On Wednesday, the father of a 7-year-old girl kidnapped and killed this week tearfully thanked those who spent so much time looking for his missing daughter. Walking out of their apartment with their arms around each other, a solemn Cartoon Wah and his two oldest sons thanked the community and police for their support and efforts to find his daughter.

"We ask the Lord will be with us to lift us through this difficult trial in our lives," Wah said.

Wah's only daughter, Hser Nay Moo, was kidnapped Monday afternoon while she was playing in front of her apartment. Her body was found in a nearby apartment in the same complex where several men, also refugees from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, were living.

Esar Met, 21, was arrested for investigation of aggravated murder, child kidnapping and evidence tampering.

Several Cambodian and Thai refugees live in the South Parc apartment complex, 2250 S. 500 East. Met's parents live directly across from the Wah family. Met lived in a different apartment in the same complex with several single men.

"I have no comment about this," Wah said through an interpreter about the man accused of killing his daughter. "He has nothing to do with me. I will let police deal with it."

Ra He Mar, Met's mother, speaking through an interpreter, said her son had never been in trouble before and she did not believe he was responsible for Moo's abduction or death.

"I don't believe my son did anything wrong," she said.

Neighbors say members of the Wah family knew Met. Wah's sons would play soccer with other friends from the complex at a nearby park. On at least one occasion, Met came to watch, according to one neighbor.

Pearlie Wah, Moo's mother, was reportedly not well enough to face the media and remained in her apartment Wednesday. A trust fund has been set up at Zions Bank for Moo's family under the names of Cartoon and Pearlie Wah.

A funeral for Hser Nay Moo will be held 11 a.m. Monday at the Haven LDS Stake Center, near 2280 South and 300 East, the same building that served as a command post for volunteer searchers.

Tuesday night after the Wah family learned of their daughter's fate, they prayed, read from the Bible and sang Christian hymns in their apartment all night, said Paul Van Dyke, an LDS service missionary who has been acting as family spokesman. Other refugees living in the complex joined them, and soon their small apartment was so full of people singing that there wasn't room for anyone else, he said.

Van Dyke described the Wah family as Christians but said they did not belong to any specific religion.

Wednesday, Cartoon Wah and his sons wiped tears from their eyes as Wah reiterated how much they all loved his daughter.

"I cannot replace her," he said. "I loved her most."

Refugees from many countries live at the apartment complex, including several from Myanmar. Cartoon Wah lived in a refugee camp for 20 years before a Christian group helped him and his family move to Utah in August, Van Dyke said. Nearly all the refugees living at the complex speak very limited English.

Wah was run out of Myanmar under "severe circumstances," he said. Van Dyke said Cartoon Wah and his family were acclimating to their new lifestyle. Wah and his oldest sons, Kerker Po, 20, and KyiKyi Po, 18, had jobs at Deseret Industries working for less than $6 an hour, he said. Some of his family were learning how to speak English. Moo, herself, knew limited English.

The move to Utah was a change in almost every aspect, Van Dyke said. Even the climate took getting used to as the family had never seen snow before.

Because those who came from Thailand shared a common experience of living in refugee camps, they felt a bond with each other and had a communal way of living in America, Van Dyke said. It wasn't uncommon for one family to share their apartment with another or for someone to walk in and out of someone else's apartment freely, he said.

In the past, Moo and her friends had gone into the same apartment where she died, according to one neighbor, a refugee who knew both Met and the Wah family. She apparently liked to play with friends there. However, that was before Met moved in, he said.

But because of the comfort level among members of their own community, Van Dyke said it was probably correct to assume Moo did not feel any stranger danger around Met.

The apartment where Met lived was occupied by single men from Thailand. Stephen Naylor, bishop of the LDS Haven Ward, said Met had only lived there a short time, but neither he nor the others had ever raised any red flags.

Wednesday, the management of the apartment complex posted notes on the door of every residence notifying them that the four men who lived in the apartment who were questioned, but not arrested, had been evicted effective immediately. The management wanted to assure tenants of their safety and called what happened to Moo an "isolated incident."

But the group also reminded parents to keep an eye on their children at all times, according to the notice.

The complex management said a crisis intervention meeting would be set up with tenants "as soon as possible."

Met's family, including his parents, six brothers and one sister, arrived in Utah only two weeks ago. Met was the oldest sibling. He lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for 10 years before coming to Utah about a month ago.

Ra He Mar said the family was making plans to have Met move back in with them now that they were all living again in the same country.

Mar said she did not understand the legal system in America and did not know what would happen to her son. She said, however, that she was worried about him. Mar said she had not spoken to her son since his arrest. Another aunt, however, said she had talked to him Tuesday and did not notice his behavior was out of the ordinary, according to interpreter Bawmu Everest from the Asian Association of Utah and the Utah Refugee Center.

Mar called Cartoon Wah a "very kind" man. As for Moo's death, she said they felt sad.

At the entrance of the apartment complex, a makeshift memorial for Moo continued to grow with candles, flowers, stuffed animals and messages to the young girl left on the curb.

"I'm upset, hurt, disappointed ... all at the same time," said Tiffany Hunter, who participated in the search for Moo. Hunter was also a participant in the volunteer search for Elizabeth Smart in 2002.

"She's a child, she doesn't deserve this. There are sick people in the world."

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com