A duck hunter Saturday found the body of one of four children allegedly thrown from a coastal bridge by their father, raising hopes that the other bodies will be recovered, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran announced.
The father, Lam Luong, has been charged with capital murder in the deaths. A search of waterways around Dauphin Island for the children – ranging in age from a few months to 3 years – began Tuesday after prosecutors said 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 called Point of Pines, near Bayou La Batre, home of the Luong family.
Cochran said the discovery gives hope that the other three bodies will be recovered. He said a 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.
Cochran said searchers using sonar technology saw images Friday that they believed were three bodies.
"Currents were so strong divers were unable to get to the location," Cochran said. The search was discontinued until Saturday morning, when divers were able to enter the water beneath blue skies.
Luong, 37, a shrimp boat worker, was denied bond Thursday in a court hearing in Mobile on four charges of capital murder. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
Confession later recanted
District Attorney John Tyson Jr. said Luong on Tuesday had confessed to investigators 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.
Luong later recanted, saying police had coerced him into giving a false confession, and claimed two Asian women took the children Monday and never returned them.
But Cochran said Friday two witnesses provided authorities with accounts that placed Luong at the three-mile-long bridge around 9:15 a.m. Monday when the children are believed to have been tossed from the highest point of the span, about 80 feet above the main channel of the Intracoastal Waterway.
The announcement that the infant's body was found also undermines Luong's claims. His appointed attorney, Joe Kulakowski, was meeting with Luong on Saturday and not immediately available for comment.
Prosecutors have said they believe Luong drove the children to the top of the two-lane bridge, stopped and threw them off after a fight with his wife. It wasn't known what the fight was about.
Luong was arrested in Hinesville, Ga., on a charge of possessing crack cocaine in October. The family had lived there about two years. Luong advised authorities in the coastal Georgia town that he had moved Nov. 1. The family returned to Bayou La Batre and moved in with his wife's mother.
Luong's appointed defense attorney had his first meeting with Luong on Thursday and said Luong told him authorities should be searching Asian communities for two women who left with the children in a van. The Alabama coast has a substantial number of Asian immigrants working in the seafood industry.