35 second summary of Esar Met jury trial
5 minute Overview
On March 31 2008 Hser Ner Moo, a Burmese refugee girl disappeared. That afternoon and evening her family and others searched for her. The police were called in the evening and managed to search all of the apartments except one over the next day.
The next evening, April 1, the body was found in that apartment. In the apartment were four Burmese men, Esar Met's roommates.
They said they had no idea that the body was there, and they told police there was a fifth person, Esar Met, who lived downstairs but was not at home, and they said he was 'a bad guy', etc.
The four roommates belong to one ethnic group and Esar Met is from a competing group.
Police got the phone number of the relatives Esar Met was visiting, from one of the roommates, called the house, and told them police would be over shortly.
Several dozen heavily armed officers were sent and they broke down the door and arrested him as he was eating dinner. The media was then told he had tried to flee.
Friendly interviews were conducted with the four roommates, a friend of theirs was being used as the translator for some of the interviews.
The interview with Esar Met was aggressive and hostile from the start, with the police insisting that he was guilty. The interview used the Reid Technique which is known for producing false confessions in younger people.
The confession that was produced during this Reid Technique interview is silly and does not contain a confession that could reasonably be considered similar to the crime. The FBI agent fed facts to him as he was confessing, and then told him when he had to change the story so it would be closer to the evidence.
Over the next several weeks, police and the FBI realized that they had arrested the wrong person, but they also realize that there would be serious professional consequences for them if their mistakes are made public.
Esar Met is then held for 6 years in jail with no media contact, until 2014 when he was quickly and quietly convicted and sent to prison, where he is now.
A longer summary and timeline of the Hser Ner Moo murder investigation.
~Sequential Timeline~ This is a timeline that is supported by the evidence.
1) Pre Salt Lake City / Many of the people involved are at Mae La refugee camp.
If you were to visit the camp one thing would stand out, the people have significantly more scars and other skin issues than people in developed urban areas. People who live in or near full jungle almost always have recent or ongoing skin infections. Esar Met had been living there several weeks before.
One of the pieces of 'evidence' used against Esar Met was the fact that he had scratches that an expert testified could possibly have come from being scratched by a child.
2) All of the people involved made their way to Utah, Esar Met being the last to arrive, about 30 days before Hser Ner Moo's murder.
3) The missionary group that sponsored him decided to house him with some members of a competing ethnic group, including two older people with more animosity towards his group and two younger people who were also loyal to ethnic divisions.
He was housed in the basement, while the roommates lived upstairs. Note that there was no door between the common living area and the basement where he was put.
4) In the days before the crime, Esar Met's uncle called the house and asked Esar Met to buy some bike tire sealant and stop by his house to fix a bicycle and visit family. Also a day or two before the killing, Hser Ner Moo stopped by the apartment where Esar Met and the 4 others lived. The roommates were at work.
5) Esar Met left the apartment the morning of March 31. He had no key so the door was left unlocked.
6) Between 1pm and 130pm Hser Ner Moo went out and first looked for one of her friends. When that child did not want to play, Hser went to apartment #472. The apartment of Esar Met and four other Burmese.
7) Esar Met had left and the door was unlocked, so she went in and watched television.
8) After a bit she probably decided to get some food from the refrigerator or make a phone call, two things that had angered some of the roommates in the past.
9) At this point one or two of the roommates returned to the apartment. The door was unlocked and as one of the roommates walked in, he saw the child eating food and scolded her. She had been scolded by one of the roommates in the past about eating food from the refrigerator. She would have responded not as a traditional Burmese child 'should' respond, but as an American child would respond. As a general rule it is a custom to be generous to children with regard to food. But years in a refugee camp force customs to adapt since there are competing ethnic groups and a lot of theft in the camps.
10) Seeing her eat food from the refrigerator set the roommate off and he hit or pushed the child, which escalated as she continued to disobey traditional Burmese etiquette when a child is scolded by an adult.
11) At some point Hser Ner Moo was severely injured. The door to the apartment was then locked.
12) Around 4pm the first of the remaining two or three roommates returned to the apartment and found the door locked. He thought it was strange that the door was locked, and would mention the locked door later.
13) Around 430pm the mother stopped by and asked if they had seen the child. A while later the child's father knocked on the door and asked if Hser was there. One of the roommates who did not yet know the situation told him she was not there.
14) A while after that the police were contacted and asked to help with the search. Through that evening and into the next day the police knocked on every one of the apartments in the complex and asked to search. The only apartment where nobody answered the door during three successive searches was the apartment where the four roommates were with the dead or dying child. The police would later lie about this, but the truth is in their own police reports.
15) While police from various agencies were searching the area and talking to people, the FBI was checking electronic trails in the complex. They discovered that there had been a call from a house near the victim's house to a house owned by a relative of an occupant of the only apartment where nobody had been answering the door during the search. The FBI spent a while researching what they could and finally decided to act on day 2 of the search.
16) Late in the evening of the second day of searching, a group of FBI agents pounded on the door for 5 to 10 minutes. One of the roommates finally answered. Strangely, all four of the roommates were in the apartment while the FBI agents had been pounding on the door. The FBI arranged for one of the roommates to go to the apartment near the victim's apartment and 'get the address' where the fifdth roommate was. This created a plausible trail with regard to how the phone number and address were obtained.
The FBI agents asked to search the apartment and found the body downstairs.
It was early spring, outdoors was quite a bit cooler than indoors so humidity inside was low, but the body was wet, as if it had just been washed. Esar Met had left to visit relatives 30+ hours previously.
In various hearings, and at the trial in 2014, FBI agents gave contradictory stories about this search, and eventually the FBI created a single document which was intended to weave all the stories together coherently. The FBI also had a lawyer present as their agent testified.
17) The four roommates and a fifth person who was in the apartment were brought to the police station and questioned. One of the roommates explained the odd answers of 'roommate #1' by saying he was mentally ill. Despite numerous problems with their statements they were not asked to explain anything. The roommates said that Esar Met was "a Muslim" and "a bad guy".
18) During the search the FBI used one of the roommates to get the phone number of the Aunt and Uncle Esar Met was visiting. They called, got the address and said they would be over shortly. Esar Met said he would be there. When police arrived they kicked down the door and roughed up the adult occupants. They then told the media that he had tried to flee when they arrived. At the trial at least one of the police involved admitted they had lied about that.
19) Esar Met was then questioned for about two and a half hours. He initially told the truth, but was given the option of either admitting that he planned to kill the child, or admitting the child died accidentally. The questioning used the Reid technique
which is considered very effective at getting younger people to confess to crimes they did not commit.
20) The interview was crafted by police to appear as a confession, but it was Immediately clear that it was useless.
Esar Met had given accurate information but the two interviewers kept demanding that he change the details of his statement and confess. In the confession that they coaxed from him there were almost no details that came anywhere close to resembling the crime scene.
It was clear at this point that he was not the killer, but the 'authorities' were under enormous pressure from the media and politicians, including the Governor. The Destiny Norton murder had created a lot of problems for the police, and a second similar murder was bad enough. If the police had to admit they had gotten a confession from somebody who was not the killer it would be awkward.
There were then aggressive attempts by the prosecutor, and even by Met's own attorney, to get him to plead guilty.
21) The police and FBI now had a big problem. They had managed to legally seal the confession so it would be difficult for anybody to view it, but there were a number of people who had already seen it and knew it was silly, a textbook false confession that could be easily discredited by anybody familiar with false confessions.
Worse, if the police admitted that they had arrested the wrong person then they would have to also admit that the girl was alive when Esar Met left, and may have been alive well into the next day. That would have explained forensic oddities like the unusually slow onset of rigor mortis, and the fact that the body was still wet from being washed a full day after a Esar Met had left the apartment.
But if she had been alive then the amber alert delay was a potential pr nightmare.
The police and prosecutor then prepared an elaborate charade to increase the credibility of the false confession, but only to those who had seen the confession itself or watched a tape of it. They did it in such a way that nobody who hadn't seen it would have to watch it. In fact the only people who would even understand the references were those who had seen the confession or a tape of it. To everybody else the charade would not even be noticed.
The police report contains detailed statements by several officers regarding what the FBI found inside the apartment and how they alerted local police. His testimony adds a simple, but untrue, detail claiming the FBI had communicated to local police that they had found blood on the stairwell. Because a key part of the false confession was a series of stories about the victim falling down stairs, but almost no other part of the confession resembled the crime in any way, blood on the stairs made it possible for at least one small part of the confession to be supported by something an FBI agent supposedly said to a local officer.
"Salt Lake police enlisted help from other agencies and put together a search team of around 60, he said. Within 10 minutes, ... was told officers had found blood in a stairwell."
"They told me they found what they believed to be blood evidence in the stairwell of one of the apartments we hadn't been able to search..."
The few people who had seen the confession, but not the police report, and who thought he was testifying accurately, now had a tiny bit of information that sort of matched one aspect of the confession.
The FBI agents who notified local police about the body, as well as those police who were notified, and anybody who read the police report, knew the officer was not being truthful on the witness stand.
Notice also that he said "one of the apartments we hadn't been able to search". The police had done three searches, knocking on doors and asking permission to search. The only apartment that had been left unsearched was the apartment where the four roommates were. It was not "one of the apartments", it was the only apartment where nobody answered the door during three consecutive searches involving pounding on the door, shining flashlights inside etc. In other words all four roommates deliberately did not answer the door, despite knowing that a child was missing and searchers were looking for her.
That police officer, the only easily visible link between the murder and the individuals behind the coverup, died under slightly odd circumstances.
The evidence seems to indicate that officer was not aware of the broader deception, and may not have even been aware that Esar Met was not the murderer.