Hunter finds missing baby's body

January 12, 2008 4:30:11 PM PST
A duck hunter on Saturday found the body of the youngest of four children allegedly thrown from a coastal bridge by their father, raising hopes that the other bodies will be recovered, a sheriff said. A search for the children -- ranging in age from a few months to 3 years -- began Tuesday near the mouth of Mobile Bay after prosecutors said the father, Lam Luong, confessed.

About 9 a.m. Saturday, a duck hunter found the body of an infant about five miles west of the bridge in a marshy area.

"The inevitable nightmare we have feared has now been confirmed," Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said. "We believe, certainly now, that the father of these children threw these children off the Dauphin Island bridge."

Cochran said a police chaplain informed the children's family of the discovery Saturday morning. Their mother, 23-year-old Kieu Phan, had gone with Luong to report them missing Monday evening.

When told that her infant's body had been found, a grief-stricken Phan wept, comforted by an associated pastor at a Vietnamese congregation that includes some members of her family.

Through an interpreter, Phan asked, "Why didn't he kill me instead of the children? It's too much hurting."

Cochran said searchers using sonar technology saw images Friday that they believed were three bodies, but the currents were so strong the divers were unable to get to the location.

Divers re-entered the water Saturday and worked until darkness forced them out of the water without finding the other three bodies. The search zone has expanded westward to Pascagoula, Miss. and will resume Sunday morning.

Luong, 37, a shrimp boat worker who lives in Irvington, was being held without bond on four counts of capital murder. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

District Attorney John Tyson Jr. said Luong had confessed to throwing Ryan Phan, 3, Hannah Luong, 2, Lindsey Luong, 1, and Danny Luong, 4 months, off the three-mile-long bridge after an argument with his wife.

Luong later recanted, claiming two Asian women took the children and never returned them. But a witness saw Luong on the 80-foot-tall two-lane bridge with the children, and another saw him leave the area without the children, Cochran said Friday.

Luong's appointed attorney, Joe Kulakowski, met with Luong on Saturday and did not immediately return a phone message for comment.

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