Image: Lam Luong
Mobile County Sheriff's Office  /  AP
Lam Luong was convicted on Thursday for murdering four children tossed from an Alabama bridge.
updated 3/19/2009 1:40:26 PM ET 2009-03-19T17:40:26

A jury on Thursday convicted a 38-year-old man of murdering four children tossed from an Alabama bridge in 2008.

The jury deliberated for only about 40 minutes in Mobile on Thursday before convicting Lam Luong of murder. The defendant, who came to the United States from Vietnam as a teenager, declined an opportunity to address the court and presented no defense witnesses at trial.

Prosecutors said Luong, a part-time shrimp boat worker, drove the family van to the top of Alabama's two-lane Dauphin Island bridge and tossed the children into the Mississippi Sound, some 80 feet below.

The Vietnamese immigrant mother had testified earlier that Luong, her common-law husband, just laughed when he told her that the children — then reported missing — would never be found.

"He kept laughing," Kieu Phan, 23, told jurors on Monday.

Officials said most of the children suffered injuries to the head or neck in addition to asphyxia due to drowning. They said only one child died from drowning alone.

Luong's lawyer, Greg Hughes, had asked the jury to return a reduced charge of manslaughter against his client.

Hughes said Luong was on drugs when he threw the children from a Gulf coast bridge in January 2008.

Luong had confessed to investigators in 2008 and later recanted that he had thrown the children — Ryan Phan, 3, Hannah Luong, 2, Lindsey Luong, 1, and Danny Luong, 4 months — off the bridge after an argument with his wife.

Hundreds volunteer to recover kids
The four tiny bodies were recovered from waters off the Gulf coast during a search involving hundreds of volunteers in boats, aircraft and scouring the shoreline on foot.

The mother testified that the couple's relationship soured after they moved from Alabama after Hurricane Katrina demolished Bayou La Batre on Aug. 31, 2005, and relocated to Hinesville, Ga.

Phan said Luong had a girlfriend and began using crack cocaine. She said the family moved back to Mobile County after Luong was fired from a restaurant job. Luong also returned, but couldn't find work, according to testimony.

At a hearing on March 5, Luong pleaded guilty, but he subsequently reversed that decision after learning a trial would be held despite the plea.

Luong came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam at 14. Immigration records indicate that he gained legal permanent residence status as a refugee, but never became a U.S. citizen.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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