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Esar Met was convicted in January of killing and kidnapping 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo.

But, his defense attorneys argued Wednesday, there's no proof he kidnapped the girl, held her against her will and purposefully prevented her from leaving the basement of his South Salt Lake apartment.

In a last-ditch attempt to lessen the charges against their client, Esar Met's defense team asked the judge to do away with the kidnapping conviction, leaving Met to answer only to one count of first-degree felony aggravated murder.

The judge declined.

"Under no circumstances would [Hser Ner Moo] not have been discovered within hours had the child not been detained and taken downstairs," said 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton. "For that reason, I'm denying the motion."

Met, 27, will be sentenced on May 14 for the murder of Hser Ner Moo. On that day, Met could be ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Jurors found Met guilty on all counts after more than five hours of deliberations, nine days of testimony, 41 witnesses and two hours of closing arguments from both sides.

The trial was grueling and emotional, featuring tearful testimony from the deceased child's grieving parents and graphic discussions of how the girl suffered before her eventual death.

Hser Ner Moo was last seen by her family on March 31, 2008. She was happy and healthy and told her aunt she wanted to go play.

She was never again seen alive.

The child's body was found the next day — crumpled, bloody and broken inside the bathtub of the apartment Met shared with four other Burmese men.

Met was arrested at a relative's home in Cottonwood Heights, where prosecutors alleged he planned to hide out after killing the child.

Met had been in the country just one month before he was arrested.

Still largely unable to communicate in English, Met's needs have been seen to by his lawyers throughout the years of legal proceedings. It's an issue the Department of Corrections will have to contend with once he's been sentenced, defense attorney Denise Porter told the judge Wednesday.

"The defendant speaks an unusual language and so basic things, such as asking for medical help, for the last six years have been taken care of by us," she told the judge. "The Department of Corrections is going to have to figure out how to take care of him."

Throughout the trial, defense attorneys maintained that their client was innocent — that he never laid hands on Hser Ner Moo and was not at home when the girl was sexually assaulted, beaten and killed.

They said Met was friends with the child, that the two would play games together, that his cooperation with police pointed to the fact that he had nothing to hide.

But prosecutors said Met used his relationship with the girl to lure her into his home and brutally slay her during the short window between the time she disappeared — about 1:30 p.m. on March 31, 2008 — and when Met boarded a bus to his relatives' home about an hour later.

No eyewitnesses could place Met at the scene of the crime or say that he had been with Hser Ner Moo on the day she vanished.

Defense attorneys indicated Wednesday that the case is likely headed for an appeal.

Atherton will have the option on May 7 of sentencing Met to prison for 20 years to life or life without parole.

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae

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