SALT LAKE CITY – The prosecuting attorney asks, “What affect has the passing of your daughter had on you?”
The mother opens her mouth to speak but no words come out. Abruptly, she throws her head back, bringing one hand to cover her face and the other to rest over her heart. And she weeps. She was nearing the end of her nearly one-hour testimony, having been asked to relive the dreadful days of her daughter’s kidnapping and murder in South Salt Lake. Hser Ner Moo was only seven and she died almost six years ago, but the emotions are still clearly profound.
Seated next to her behind the witness stand, her interpreter hands her a fresh tissue and nods to the questioning attorney who is offering her the few moments she needs to compose herself.
There was silence in the courtroom, broken only by the sobs of a grieving mother. Faces were somber. And the expression of the accused—Esar Met—vacant.
“I’m ready,” she whispers. She takes a slow breath and looks up to meet the gaze of her questioner, steady strength showing through her tears.
“I want to tell you—and the court,” the interpreter says, translating her careful words, “It is the biggest loss of my life. Nothing can pay me back. The whole world would not satisfy me.”
After emotional testimonies from Hser Ner Moo’s family and others on Tuesday, Jan. 7, and Wednesday, Jan. 8, the victim’s uncle started things off Thursday, Jan. 9, at the trial of Esar Met. Met, 26, who is charged in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City with first-degree felony counts of aggravated murder and child kidnapping in connection with the 2008 death of Hser Ner Moo. Moo and her family are Burmese immigrants who resettled in Utah.
He recalled the morning of March 31, 2008. Hser’s father left for work and her mother was heading out for a dental appointment. It was up to the kids’ aunt and uncle to watch them. The uncle took a seat, but before he flipped on the television, he told Hser Ner Moo and her brother not to go anywhere. And then he drifted off to sleep.
That was the last time he ever saw her. He awoke to a panicked mother returning home to the reality that her daughter was missing and—by that time—probably dead.
“I was the one that called 911,” testified Carrie Pender, the children’s liaison from the school district and good friend of Hser Ner Moo’s mother. Carrie had already been called twice by the mother and Carrie stayed by her side, recounting how nobody got any sleep that night.
“I didn’t feel good about it at all,” said investigating Salt Lake Police Sgt. Mikal Wersland, in regards to that initial, arduous search. That search went all through the night, eyeing the inside of almost every residence in the complex. Wersland explained how he did everything in his power to start a more thorough search. And he did it.
During that second search, Wersland received a call informing him that the victim had been found dead in the basement of one of the apartments.
“As the investigation supervisor, it’s typical procedure to at least look at the scene,” Wersland said slowly. “I just barely stepped past the threshold and looked at her.” Welling with emotion he said, “I just thought about having to tell this family about what had happened.”
The words the mother remembered hearing from the police were, “I’m sorry, we did our best. The trial is scheduled to last three weeks. With more key witnesses scheduled to testify Friday.