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Updated: Monday, 18 Feb 2013, 10:59 AM CST
Published : Thursday, 19 Mar 2009, 1:30 PM CDT
MOBILE, Ala. - Lam Luong is found guilty on all five counts of capital murder for throwing his children off the Dauphin Island Bridge, on January 7, 2008. In just 45 minutes the jury delivered its verdict. One count for Ryan, one count for Hannah, one count for Lindsey and one count for Danny, then one count for them as a group.
As soon as the verdict was read Lam Luong was led away and family members started reacting.
Kieu Pham leaned on her family for support, just minutes after a jury found her common law husband, Lam Luong, guilty of killing their four children. Kam Phengsisomboum, spoke on the family's behalf. "She's really glad to hear that, she was happy with it. Those are tears of happiness," said Phengsisomboum.
Lam Luong was found guilty on five counts of capital murder for throwing four-month-old Danny, three-year-old Ryan, two-year-old Hannah and one-year-old Lindsey off the Dauphin Island Bridge.
It took nearly two weeks to recover their bodies, but in less than an hour the jury returned its verdict. "I don't think there wasn't one piece of evidence that did it, but all the evidence was important," said Mobile County District Attorney, John Tyson, Junior. "It was all a piece of the puzzle.” Tyson said this is a case his office will carry with it for many years, “It forced us to think about an unimaginable crime,” shared Tyson.
The family said it is happy to have this part of the trial behind them. Friday Luong's sentencing will begin. The same jury will be asked to decide if Luong should be put to death for killing his children.
"We don't want to say what we want to happen yet," said Phengsisomboum. The jury will be asked to decide between death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is just a recommendation, Judge Charles Graddick will have the ultimate say.
Here's a recap of the Tragedy in the Bayou, starting when search and rescue crews first started looking for the four small children:
Tuesday night, January 8, 2008, investigators announce an all out search of the waters off Dauphin Island.
This, after authorities say 37-year-old Lam Luong confessed to throwing his children 100 feet into the water under the Dauphin Island Bridge. That was enough to charge Luong with four counts of capital murder.
Searches continued for days without any rescue or recovery. That is, until the morning of Saturday, January 12.
"The inevitable nightmare that we all feared has now been confirmed," said Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran.
A duck hunter found the remains of four-month-old Danny Luong in a marsh near Port Aux Pin.
Danny wouldn't be the only discovery that weekend. His brother, three-year-old Ryan Phan, was found the next day, just three miles to the west in Bayou la Fouche Bay.
Over the next few days temperatures plummeted, although the morale among the searchers remained high.
It wasn't until Tuesday, January 15, more than a week since the children had been killed, when officers from Mississippi Marine Resources found the body of one-year-old Lindsey Luong near Pascagoula. At first forensic scientists weren't able to identify if the child was Lindsey or her sister, two-year-old Hannah Luong, because they're so close in age.
But through DNA testing and other comparisons the family learned that little Hannah was the only baby still missing.
Sunday, January 20, word broke around 4:00 p.m. that authorities thought their search was over. They were right. Remains believed to be Hannah were found floating near Venice, Louisiana, one-hundred of miles from where her sister and brothers were found.
Luong had initially pled not guilty. But before his trial started, he reversed it to guilty, and asked for the death penalty. The very next day, he reversed it for the final time, pleading not guilty.
During Luong's trial, which started in March 16, 2009, several witnesses involved in the search and rescue testified. The duck hunter said he thought he was in shock when he saw baby Danny's body.
Video of Hannah's little body floating face down of the coast of Venice, Louisiana was also shown. A commercial shrimper spotted her body while filming the stormy conditions at sea, because he wanted the jury to see the conditions they were searching in.
Karen Kelly, the state senior medical examiner at the time of this tragedy, testified that all four children were still alive when they hit the water. She said she was able to tell they died from blunt force trauma and drowning. That is, all except 2 Hannah. Her body was too far decomposed to tell if there was any blunt force trauma. Kelly said she was able to identify Hannah because her toe nails were painted.
All of the children also had what the medical examiner described as washer-woman changes, meaning their skin had begun to prune because of the time they spent in the water. Images of their tiny hands and feet were flashed on large screens to show the changes.
After the state rested it's case, Judge Charles Graddick asked Lam Luong if he wanted to take the stand. When he said he did not, the judge then asked if the defense had any witnesses. They did not.
On Thursday, March 19, the state made their closing argument, saying, "Sometimes there is just evil and that's what we have in this case."
It went on to say that Luong's children trusted him, and he betrayed that trust.
The defense said what happened was so out of character, that the only reason to explain why a father could allegedly do this was intoxication. The defense is asking the jury to support a manslaughter charge, not capital murder.
The jury then went to deliberate. They only deliberated 45 minutes before they delivered their guilty verdict. He was found guilty for all five counts of capital murder; one for each child, and another for all of them collectively.
Friday the same jury that handed down the guilty verdict will start the penalty phase of the trial. They will be asked to decide between life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.