SALT LAKE CITY — A Burmese man charged in the brutal killing and sexual assault of a 7-year-old neighbor girl in 2008 pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing Friday.

It's taken more than four years for Esar Met to formally face charges of aggravated murder and child kidnapping. On Friday, he stood shackled before Judge Judith Atherton, with an interpreter and attorney beside him.

Met listened as the charges of aggravated murder, a capital offense, and child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, were read. Met pleaded not guilty to both charges and was escorted out of the courtroom.

His attorney had no comment after the hearing.

On Nov. 15, Met was ordered to stand trial on the charges in the death of Hser Ner Moo.

The girl apparently walked away from her South Salt Lake apartment on March 31, 2008. Her body was found the next day in the bathroom of Met's basement apartment. Authorities believe the child was raped, strangled and beaten to death the afternoon that she disappeared.

The girl's parents were not in the courtroom Friday. Prosecutors have 60 days to determine if they will seek the death penalty.

Met's next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 22.

Anne Forester