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Top stories of 2008, #4: Hser Ner Moo Homicide


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SALT LAKE CITY — When a 7-year-old Burmese refugee vanished from her South Salt Lake apartment, hundreds of volunteers searched for her. Police found Hser Ner Moo's body in a neighbor's home. The tragic end to that search left a community in mourning.

On March 31, Hser Ner Moo disappeared from her South Salt Lake apartment. When police issued an Amber Alert early the next morning, hundreds of volunteers came out to search with hopes of a good outcome. "To find her, to find her, to have her turn up safe and unharmed. We're just hoping and praying that's what happens," said volunteer Emlyn Stutz.

But it wasn't to be. Her body was found in a nearby apartment. South Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Snyder said, "Once inside the apartment, they observed some evidence that led them to the bathroom of the apartment where they discovered the body of Hser Ner Moo."

Police arrested 21-year-old Esar Met. Like Hser Ner Moo and her family, Met is a Burmese refugee. He had been in Utah for less than a month.

Police don't know how the girl came to be in Met's apartment, but prosecutors said Met strangled or suffocated the girl, sexually assaulted her and likely killed her within an hour of when she left her apartment. Met confessed to the crime and to hiding the body.

After the arrest, Hser Ner Moo's father refused to talk about Met but said the family was leaning on their faith to cope with the loss of their little girl. Wah said, "I had one daughter in this world and I loved her the most. And my two sons, they loved their little sister very much as well. And in this world, you can't find another to replace her."

Neighbors were stunned to hear what happened. One said, "She was too young, way young. It just hurts. I think it hurts the community."

Since then, South Parc Townhomes Manager Juanita Huertero said the residents were closer. She said, "The parents are keeping an eye out on the kids a lot more as they're outside, even if it's not their own children."

Hser Ner Moo's memory will live on. A community center in the apartment complex where she died has been dedicated in her name.

The facility will help refugees like Hser Ner Moo's family and the family of her accused killer.

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Sandra Yi and Paul Nelson

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