MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. - On January 8, 2008, news broke that a father had allegedly thrown his four children off the Dauphin Island Bridge. The youngest: only four months old. No one knew about the crime for 24 hours. No one, according to investigators, except Lam Luong, the father of the 4 children, Ryan, Hannah, Lindsey and Danny.
The first child, Danny, was discovered by a duck hunter near Port Aux Pines - about a mile from the Dauphin Island Bridge. That's when authorities said the nightmare was confirmed. For the next 13 days rescue teams would burn the candle at both ends, physically as well as emotionally searching for the three other children.
January 8 2008, 37-year-old Lam Luong walked into the Bayou La Batre police department to file a missing persons report for his four children: 3-year-old Ryan, 2-year-old Hannah, 1-year-old Lindsey and four-month-old Danny.
Police quickly decided it was a false report. But then they said Luong eventually confessed to throwing his babies off the Dauphin Island Bridge.
Their young mother, Kieu Phan, grief stricken beyond belief, using a translator said, "I want to follow my children, die with them."
Authorities and volunteers took on the grim task of searching the cold waters surrounding the Dauphin Island Bridge for the children. That search would last for weeks.
Meanwhile, Lam Luong sat behind bars under protective custody at Mobile Metro Jail. On January 10, everyone got a first glimpse of Lam Luong - the man accused of the unthinkable. Luong appeared before Judge Charles McKnight clad in a bullet proof vest. He was denied bond on four counts of capital murder.
"The judge has been judging for a lot of years and he's been practicing law for a lot of years and from what he indicated from the bench was that in his entire career, I believe he said this is the worse he had ever seen," said District Attorney John Tyson, Jr.
Worse, Luong would later recant his confession. His attorney at the time, Joseph Kulakowski, released an audio tape to the media in which Luong insisted someone named Kim had his babies.
"The babies are still alive, that's the truth. Know one thing, I didn't put them in the water. Kim's got the babies. Somebody named Kim's got the babies," said Luong.
Kim never surfaced, but truth of the heinous crime did. January 12, six days after authorities said Luong threw his children off the bridge to get back at his common law wife, the body of 4-month-old Danny washed ashore near Port Aux Pines, a few miles from the bridge. That same day the infant was pulled from his watery grave, we were with his mourning mother.
"Why didn't he just kill me instead of the children?" said Phan, using a translator.
Luong also called from jail while we were there, still insisting he's innocent and that he didn't kill his children.
This is a transcript of that call between Lam Luong and a family member.
"You say you didn't kill your kids."
"Why don't you tell authorities where they are so they can bring them home. Then where are your kids?"
"I don't know where my kids are, I want to come home and get my phone book - to bring me to justice."
"The phone book you told me about yesterday that has your girlfriend's number. Why haven't you given that number to the cops, the girl who has your kids?"
"I don't know the number to give them..."
"That's enough, that's enough."
"I'll call back."
"Okay, bye... bye. Bye."
In the days that followed it became harder to maintain hope that the three other children were alive. Between January 13 and January 20, their bodies were finally found. The last discovery of Hannah's body, happened off the coast of Venice, Louisiana.
Autopsies provided more disturbing details.
"I can further confirm to you that the cause of death was blunt force trauma injuries with drowning," said Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran.
On, January 26, the children were laid to rest at the Odd Fellows Cemetery, not far from their home. A grieving mother and entire community turned out to say good bye.
On April 1, more than two months after authorities said Luong tossed his children off the nearly 100 foot bridge, he pleaded not guilty to five counts of capital murder.
"He was a great dad," said Kam Phengsisomboum, the children's uncle.
Phengsisboum lived with the family for a while in Hinesville, Georgia.
"He would come home, change diapers, then all of a sudden he changed, boom. Hard to believe," said Phengsisomboum.
Phengsisomboum blamed the whole thing on drugs. The Luong family had moved to Bayou la Batre from Hinesville, Georgia just a couple of weeks before the incident happened. Luong worked as a shrimper, and lived with his wife and four children.
Authorities said Luong had a few brushes with the law prior to moving to the coastal community.
"I do know he has a couple of arrests for cocaine possession in Florida and in Mississippi, and I think he has a number of minor offenses but significantly the two cocaine arrests," said Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran.
Phengsisomboum added it's still surreal to think about what happened a top this bridge, especially for the young mother who lost so much.
"Don't think she will ever be the same," added Phengsisomboum. "I can't imagine loosing my children."
The bridge will never be looked at the same, because it is forever tied to the Tragedy in the Bayou.
The state is seeking the death penalty in this case. The trial is expected to begin March 9.
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