SALT LAKE CITY -- Insisting that he was innocent in the gruesome sexual assault and beating death of a 7-year-old girl, Esar Met was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.
"I didn't kill that girl. I don't know who killed that girl," Met told the judge through a Burmese interpreter.
Met, a Burmese refugee, reiterated his alibi and said he did not understand American laws when he was arrested in connection with the death of Hser Ner Moo. He said in his native country, law enforcement officers torture suspects and he feared the same would happen to him.
"Because of my fear of police, I made a confession that I killed a girl," he said. "I didn't kill the girl, I didn't hurt the girl."
Met was convicted of killing Hser Ner Moo, who vanished from her refugee family's South Salt Lake apartment back in 2008, when she left home to play with friends. The next day, her body was found in the apartment Met shared with four others, in a basement shower stall.
In their own statements to Third District Court Judge Judith Atherton, Hser Ner Moo's family said Met destroyed them. Hser's mother, Pearlly Wah, told Met that since her daughter died her family "has never had any peace."
"Maybe if I hadn't come to this country, my daughter would still be alive," she said, wiping tears and speaking through an interpreter. "This man, he was so brutal to my little girl."
Hser's father, Cartoon Wah, spoke fondly of his daughter. He said that he used to sing to her.
"Now, instead of singing, I'm crying," he said.
A jury deliberated for five hours in January before convicting Met of aggravated murder and child kidnapping. Prosecutors said the 7 year old was, “sexually assaulted, repeatedly beaten, strangled, had her arm bent and broken, and ultimately killed by a massive blow or blows to her chest.”
Defense attorneys said Met was known to play with kids in the neighborhood, suggesting it was a plausible explanation for his DNA on the girl. The defense argued that the jury should consider the possibility that one of Met’s roommates framed him for the killing.
Defense attorneys asked Judge Atherton to sentence Met with "a light at the end of a decades-long tunnel," a chance of parole. Prosecutors said Met should not be given parole, noting the savage beating of Hser.