By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Police search for bodies of 4 children; police say father threw them off Ala. bridge
Children Bridge Dea 6711225
Members of the Mobile County Sheriff's Flotilla stand near their boats after suspending search operations for missing children, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008, at Cedar Point, just north of Dauphin Island, Ala. Lam Luong, 37, of Irvington confessed Tuesday night to driving to the Dauphin Island bridge, stopping and tossing the youngsters off the span, which is as high as 80 feet above the water in places, Detective Scott Riva said. - photo by Associated Press
    BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. — Lam Luong initially told police that his girlfriend had his four young children and failed to return them, but his family suspected something more sinister: that he traded the kids for a drug fix.
    The truth appears to be even worse. Police say Luong broke down under questioning and confessed to tossing the children — ages 4 months, 1, 2 and 3 — off the highest point of the Dauphin Island bridge near the Gulf of Mexico.
    He had been fighting with his wife, Ngoc Phan, in part about the girlfriend, said Kam Phengsisomboun, Phan’s brother-in-law.
    Phengsisomboun said a police witness reported seeing at least part of the horror: someone throwing a bundle from the bridge Monday as three children sat in a nearby car. Other details about the witness account were not immediately available from authorities.
    The bridge is 80 feet tall at the highest part of the span, the water up to 55 feet deep, and rescuers searched Wednesday without hope of finding the children alive. Divers aided by cadaver dogs in boats searched near the bridge, while others in boats and helicopters covered an area totaling 100 square miles in case the current swept the bodies into the gulf.
    The search was called off late Wednesday afternoon when dense fog rolled in, completely obscuring the bridge.
    Missing and presumed dead were 4-month-old Danny Luong; 1-year-old Lindsey Luong; 2-year-old Hannah Luong; and 3-year-old Ryan Phan. Phan is not the man’s biological child, but Luong raised him from infancy, authorities said.
    Some family members and friends held out hope that the children survived.
    ‘‘I just pray for the kids, that they are still alive,’’ said Van Lam, a family friend who was at an Oriental market along with the children’s maternal grandmother Wednesday afternoon.
    Luong, 37, is charged with four counts of capital murder.
    He came to Alabama from Vietnam in 1984 and worked as a shrimper, Phengsisomboun said. The couple lived with Ngoc Phan’s mother at Bayou La Batre, a fishing village 20 miles southwest of Mobile with a large Southeast Asian community.
    Phengsisomboun said the couple had recently moved back to the area from Hinesville, Ga.
    Luong had argued with his wife Sunday night and again Monday before taking the children, Phengsisomboun said. Luong’s girlfriend, who is from New York but had been living in a Gulfport, Miss., hotel, was a factor in the dispute, he said.
    Luong left the home with two of the children, then later came back for the other two, he said.
    Investigators and family members said Luong reported the children missing Monday, claiming he had given the kids to his girlfriend and that she failed to return them. Authorities said he changed his story Tuesday night after they found holes in his account.
    Phengsisomboun said he initially feared Luong had traded the children to buy drugs. Luong had a crack habit and had rapidly spent money from an insurance settlement after an automobile accident, he said.
    Luong was arrested last Oct. 19 in Hinesville on a charge accusing him of possessing crack cocaine; a grand jury has not acted on the case. According to a police report, he called police looking to turn himself in.
    Luong was scheduled to appear in court Thursday on the murder charges. District Attorney John Tyson said he did not believe Luong had a lawyer.
    His 23-year-old wife was in seclusion Wednesday at her mother’s brick home, the front porch cluttered with children’s shoes.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter