Some questions which anybody might have about this case.
Q Why was he prosecuted if the evidence clearly points to another person?
The main reason was probably that the FBI and police did not want to admit they got a confession from the wrong person.
A lot of U.S. law enforcement relies on extracted confessions, and, in the United States, an art has been built around getting people to confess to crimes they did not commit.
Another factor may have been religion. Esar Met belongs to a less popular religion in the United States while the obvious real suspect is more mainstream.
Q Is it possible neither Esar Met nor 'roommate #1' is the killer?
There were two roommates who moved out of the apartment shortly before Esar Met moved in. They are never discussed in the media nor at trial, aside from a passing reference by 'roommate #2', the brother of 'roommate #1', who says he and his brother moved upstairs when those two moved out. One of them could have returned to the apartment that day.
Another possibility is that a law enforcement officer, or a team of them, were involved in several child murders in that region.
Child abductions of this kind are extremely rare, about 100 a year in the entire country, and the vast majority involve 'children' in the 15 or 16 year age range. A significant percentage of all the very young children abducted nationwide have been abducted from that area, a very high number relative to the population.
One thing that should raise questions is the fact that a higher percentage of the victims and suspects are from outside communities. Rosie Tapia was Hispanic. Hser Ner Moo Burmese. Terry Lee Black is Hispanic. Esar Met is Burmese.
In other words there are a high number of very young children murdered in that area, but both the children and the suspects are outsiders. This could tend to indicate that a local person or people are committing the murders then trying to pin them on outsiders. These populations, Burmese, Hispanic etc have a very low level of this type of crime everywhere else they live. It's only in Salt Lake City that 'foreign' types become both victims and perpetrators.
The people most able, and most psychologically likely, to commit that kind of crime, and pin it on others, would be a small group of law enforcement officers with strong bonds which precede their law careers, e.g. in military service.
Q Why do some archived news articles say that the father saw the girl as she left the house, while later articles say it was the brother, and why is this completely omitted from testimony at the trial?
Karen people are hardworking and they are used to hard work, but when they arrive in the U.S. they are introduced to the U.S. industrial work ethic which involves a competition between employee and employer.
The father was told something along the lines of 'You can go home and I'll clock you out at 5pm'. It isn't the kind of thing he would generally do, but he is in a new place and his people have a long history of learning what happens when you ignore local customs.
The initial articles mentioned that he came home as Hser Ner Moo was leaving and asked her where she was going. When it was realized that this created a problem for the father, the newspapers edited the online versions to say that it was the older brother.
Why are both versions problematic?
Both the two brothers and roommates #1 and #2 worked at the same facility and went home early. In other words the father knew that roommate #1 was in the house when his daughter went there.
The main focus of police was simply preventing the public from finding out they had gotten a confession from a person who was not guilty. So the father's story was cleaned up in follow up visits with people from the FBI and prosecutor's office, but a lot of messy details remained which the prosecutor missed. Notably, the details about the brothers' leaving with a friend of the family for an English project, and other things.
So did the father commit perjury?
He did not commit perjury any more than Esar Met confessed. When you coerce somebody into doing something the responsibility for that is on the person coercing, not on their victim. The police used heavy handed tactics against all of the Burmese involved, but especially against the family of the victim. The Burmese know they have to play along with authorities, or face targeting, and Americans are learning that as well.
Q What should happen to the real killer?
The first priority should be in making sure the wrong person isn't in jail.
Then there should be an investigation to the extent the family of the victim wants that. They, the senior members of that community, believe, or have been led to believe, that roommate #1 was the real killer. An investigation would clarify what role law enforcers in Utah played in the death, but it may not be the custom of the Burmese involved to imprison their own person in a case with these specific circumstances.
There is a slim, but very real, possibility that a group of law enforcement agents engineered the entire crime, certain that they had enough control over the system to make sure things went their way.
Whether the child was killed by 'roommate #1' or by a group of law enforcement agents, it is up to the family of the victim to decide to what extent they want to prosecute, but they do not have the authority to allow the wrong person to be imprisoned for the crime, any more than the people involved in the charade do.
Q Why do so many facts vary across articles, and even across pages on this website?
There was a vast amount of inaccurate information given to the public, initially by the FBI and Utah police, and later by media. All of the initial charging information was fabricated, the confession was carefully extracted then its details hidden, the initial 'evidence' was either lost or adapted. Media in Utah are very pro law enforcement and always favor the prosecution, so in many cases media would give inaccurate information or update 'facts' to help prosecutors. A lot of examples are provided on this website.
A person should listen and look first at the trial testimony, along with background details that were hidden from the public.
As the website is worked on, any ambiguous or contradictory material will be cleaned up, but a person should read any articles linked to an item for them self, and listen to the trial testimony recordings provided to decide what is true.
Q Didn't he actually confess though, even if details of the crime were not right?
Anybody can be made to confess to anything.
People who have experience with what an unscrupulous interrogator may do are much quicker to confess. All of the Burmese involved in this case have enough familiarity with 'law enforcement' to know that if they have any family members who are vulnerable they must cooperate, including confessing to what they are asked to confess to.
Esar Met started the interrogation by telling the truth. Anybody can read the transcript, or watch the video, and see that the FBI agent wanted only a confession and was willing to do anything to get it.
One aspect that has not been addressed yet on this website involves the soft interviews which were given to the roommates.
There may have been a reason the FBI did not want to arrest a member of the Karen ethnic community for that crime.
Q Why were prosecutors so disrespectful to all of the Burmese people at trial?
It is a common U.S. custom to insult foreigners, and the authorities in Utah were merely playing their role. A big part of the crudeness was also due to the fact that the Burmese people involved in the case were at the very low end of the financial spectrum.
If there is a retrial which gets coverage outside Utah, it is likely there will be more attention paid by authorities to pretending some respect for the victim's family and other Burmese.
Q Should the state of Utah investigate to find out what happened to the girl's brain and heart?
Actually it's pretty common in the United States for organs to be removed during autopsy, and then discarded as medical waste.
In this case though, it's possible some of the organs were kept. The medical examiner admits he preserved the brain in formaldehyde, something which would not have been necessary for a one day examination. He also removed various other organs and peeled the skin off part of the body.
The state's position seems to be that as long as nobody mentions it to the family then there is no problem.
It would be basic courtesy to look for the various body parts that did not make it too the funeral, and return them to the family for burial.
Q Is there any reason to believe the brain, heart or other organs are still recoverable?
Actually there is.
Here is a brief timeline that explains.
First) The body was found
Second) The false confession was publicized
Third) The autopsy was performed
When the autopsy was done, those in the room were reasonably sure there would not be a trial. Until at least 2010 in fact there was a certainty among everybody involved that there would be no trial. It wasn't until 2013 that a trial became very likely.
Why is this important?
The medical examiner prepared an elaborate PowerPoint presentation for the jurors with the help of the prosecutor. Notice that he included a photo of the pickled brain in a jar and said the photo was taken "a number of days" after the autopsy. Clip819aa above.
First, he would not have preserved the brain in a bottle of formaldehyde in order to 'show edema in the brain'.
Second, he would not have photographed it several days later. He was a very busy man at the time, and the photograph was probably taken in 2013 when he was preparing the PowerPoint.
There are a lot of organs like that on shelves in peoples' houses, in laboratories etc.
Evidently he kept the brain, either at his workplace or his home, as a souvenir. Other organs may have been preserved similarly. The only way to find the victim's organs in this case would be to DNA test the various hearts, brains, livers etc in jars.
Q The prosecutor gave a speech about how solving this kind of crime is so important to him. Why did he say that, considering his actions?
People who work in jobs like that know that they need to be trusted by the people they deceive. His actions make his priorities clear, but he would be out of a job if his actions were the only thing his backers could publicize. So he was obligated to be publicly solicitous of the victim's family, even as he arranged for evidence to be altered.
The same thing was done by all of the other government employees involved.
The FBI agent presented a facade about helping the victim's family, the people who raided the uncle's house pretended that their concern was to find a dangerous criminal, the evidence technicians pretended that by helping the prosecutor clean up the evidence they were serving some greater cause.
These are all fairly high paying jobs which come with a lot of prestige and perks.
All of the people involved know that as long as they stick together and keep their stories straight there is no risk of anything happening to them.
Q Is there some simple way the 'authorities' involved can clean up their mess quietly?
A very simple path.
1) Visit Esar Met and start shi**ing hundred dollar bills until he has enough for a capable lawyer.
2) Give the generic 'Burmese' community a plot of land on which to start a community, with sections for the various subgroups.
3) Enable a route for a number of people from Cox's Bazaar to Utah, with fast paperwork and basic resources to create an agricultural area in Utah.
Q Was useful information obtained from the autopsy? What effect did it have?
A separate page may be made eventually about how the medical examiner helped the prosecutor mislead the jury with regard to the autopsy. Subjects will include the head injuries, the time of death, and other issues.
During the autopsy the victim's brain was removed, which required her head to be shaved and a large part of her skull to be removed first.
When the body was brought to the funeral home it was probably cleaned up a bit but the mother probably would have wanted to see her child.
The first thing she would have noticed was probably that the hair was not real, most likely a cheap polyester type wig.
Lifting the head, she would have discovered it weighed a few pounds less than it should have.
If she tried to touch the abdomen she probably would have realized the abdominal cavity was empty.
But the worst would have been when she realized that the skin had been peeled off parts of the body and replaced with some kind of cosmetic.
The main effect of the autopsy was to make the family of the victim utterly subservient to the government. They have other children and they understand better than most Americans the subtle language of coercion in acts like forced autopsies.
If the medical examiner had simply examined the body externally, and reported accurately without pandering to the prosecution, useful information would have been obtained.
Q Why did the medical examiner determine the body was not sexually abused, while a child abuse expert said it was severely sexually abused? What is the truth?
When two 'experts' have completely contradictory opinions you have to make an educated guess based on other evidence.
When the medical examiner finished his autopsy he determined that there was no sexual abuse. A police officer and an FBI agent were present at the autopsy, and the prosecutor was contacted immediately with the result.
The prosecutor then had his own expert examine the body, and that expert said that there was sexual abuse which was among the worst she had seen.
It's hard to combine those two opinions into something coherent, so a person should look at other evidence.
1) The body was placed face down with the underwear under the face. This suggests the person was angry at the victim, or 'roleplaying' anger in such a way as to leave a symbol behind for others. The general theme of the body positioned that way suggests that the killer would have wanted people to believe the victim either had been 'punished' or otherwise paid some kind of price for the perceived offense, which is discussed elsewhere. So rape with an object of some kind is likely based on how the body was found.
2) A problem arises though with the 'experts' medical opinion involving use of the word petechia
Despite the experts credentials, the explanation is that there were capillaries which 'exploded', in other word from an internal pressure of some kind, and that is probably not the main feature of the most severe examples of sexual abuse, especially involving an object.
So that raises some question about the testimony of that expert.
The same expert referred to the killing as a 'crime of power', which is a little more accurate and useful. Unfortunately, no expert was called to clarify to the jury which of the people in the house would have carried out a 'crime of power' with those features.
The most likely suspect, roommate #1, had been violently trained to enforce certain cultural norms. He was the oldest roommate, and had been present in Burma through some of the most vicious ethnic conflict. Because he was simple minded, people would have been especially brutal in forcing him to adhere to the rules.
The second most likely suspect or suspects, one or more law enforcers in that region, would have staged the crime this way to create ambiguity in the minds of the initial investigators, but he, or they, probably would have needed to be part of the investigative team to make sure that the first part of the set up, accusing Esar Met, went without a hitch.
The bottom line is that simply placing the body face down over the underwear shows the intent to create a 'sexual assault murder' by itself. Whether or not the body was actually abused in that way is secondary.
Of course if Esar Met had committed a sexual assault on the body he would not have then staged the body to send a message about 'punishing' the victim.