Image: Lam Luong
Mobile County Sheriff's Office  /  AP
Lam Luong, of Irvington, Ala., once entered a guilty plea but later retracted it.
updated 4/30/2009 1:37:12 PM ET 2009-04-30T17:37:12

A judge ordered a death sentence Thursday for a jobless shrimper convicted of murdering four young children by tossing them from an 80-foot-high bridge on the Alabama coast.

Circuit Judge Charles Graddick handed down the death sentence to Lam Luong and said he would order prison officials to show Luong photographs of the four children each day he is on death row.

Luong, 38, was convicted in March of killing the children on Jan. 7, 2008. A Vietnamese refugee, he was accused of dropping the four from atop the Dauphin Island Bridge after an argument with their mother, Kieu Phan, 23.

Luong, who was Phan's common-law husband, fathered three of the victims — Hannah Luong, 2; Lindsey Luong, 1; and Danny Luong, 4 months. Ryan Phan, 3, was Phan's child with another man.

At his sentencing, Luong looked toward his wife and, through an interpreter, apologized.

His attorneys urged Judge Graddick to sentence Luong to life in prison without parole, the only alternative to the death sentence under his capital murder conviction. They said he was addicted to drugs and depressed.

But Graddick said the aggravating circumstances were too great. He said the children, during their fall from the bridge, must have felt "sheer terror" and were alive when they hit the water.

The jury that convicted Luong last month also recommended the death sentence.

An appeal is automatic under Alabama's death penalty law.

Luong, who once entered a guilty plea but later retracted it, did not testify at his trial or during a later sentencing phase.

During the trial, the children's mother testified that Luong had a girlfriend, abused drugs and didn't find a job when the family returned to the Bayou La Batre area. They had temporarily relocated to Georgia after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast in 2005.

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