SALT LAKE CITY — The men living with Esar Met at the time the Myanmar refugee is accused of killing a 7-year-old neighbor girl testified Tuesday that they did not see their roommate or the girl the day she went missing and the day she was found.
When police searched the apartment on April 1, 2008, and told the men not to move, they did not know why. Maung Myo Mye said it wasn't until after he answered "a lot" of questions that police told him they had found Hser Ner Moo's body in the basement bathroom of the apartment the men shared.
"I was so surprised," Mye said. "I (couldn't) believe that was happening."
Met, 26, was living in that basement, having arrived just two weeks before the girl went missing.
Tuesday marked the sixth day of testimony in the trial against Met, who is charged with aggravated murder and child kidnapping in Hser's death.
Po Dee testified that he rarely saw, ate with or spent time with Met, but still thought of the man "as a friend or family." Mye conceded he didn't know Met's name, simply referring to him as "the Muslim."
Both men were clear that they slept upstairs and Met resided in the basement and that they and Met spoke different languages. All four roommates, which also included Ku Nu and Myint Kyi, said they had not seen Met or Hser on March 31 or April 1.
The former roommates testified that the girl's father, Cartoon Wah, knocked on their door after dinner on March 31. Most of them remembered him asking if they had seen his daughter. They said they replied that they had not.
Dee testified that Wah didn't tell him Hser had been missing for hours or that he needed help searching for the child.
"I didn't know at all," he said.
Defense attorneys have sought to raise questions about what the roommates did and did not do once they realized the girl was missing. Dee and Mye testified that they didn't know the situation was serious.
"When (Wah) came and asked about her, I was just thinking she was playing somewhere else. I didn't get it that she was missing," Mye said.
Dee said he noticed a large police presence at the South Parc apartment complex on April 1 and had even heard helicopters overhead, but was never told why they were there. He noted that he did not speak English and that police officers never communicated with him in his native Karen.
Kyi and Nu also said they noticed the officers, but none of the men seemed to know police were looking for the child. They all testified that they did not see any fliers around the complex about the missing child, and at least Nu, Dee and Kyi said they wouldn't have been able to read the fliers even if they had seen them.
All four of the former roommates testified that they had jobs at the time and worked — or were traveling to and from work — from about 6 a.m. to anywhere between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on both March 31 and April 1. Prosecutors used time cards from their workplaces to establish and verify the timeframes.
Met was not employed at the time.
Kyi said the last roommate out typically locked the door to the apartment but that it's possible no one locked the door if they knew Met was home.
"If someone was home, the door may not (be) locked," he said.
Kyi was the only roommate to testify that Hser would occasionally come to their apartment and watch movies. He said she was allowed to come in unannounced.
"We don't have any restrictions to anybody," he said.
All of the former roommates testified that they only became aware of the girl's death after police searched the apartment and took them to the police station.
"Eventually the police asked me, 'Do you know why are here?'" Dee testified. "I said, 'No,' and they said, 'Because we found the little girl in your basement.'
"'I said, 'I didn't know anything about that.'"
Prosecutor Rob Parrish asked all of the men if they had a hand in the girl's death or the concealment of her body.
"Did you do anything to hurt Hser Ner Moo?" he asked Mye.
"Never," the man replied.
Each of the men likewise denied having any involvement with Hser's death.Comment on this story
Monday, Utah Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey testified that Hser's death was a homicide caused by multiple blunt force trauma injuries.
Prosecutors have argued that Hser's blood was found on Met's jacket and his DNA on her fingernails. Defense attorneys have said the evidence is circumstantial, that the DNA evidence can be explained by normal horseplay, and they've raised questions about the other men living in Met's apartment.
The trial is scheduled to continue through Jan. 24, but attorneys have indicated that the case could go to the jury this week.