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     Tragic Victims of Child Abuse in Alabama

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Danny; Lindsey; Hannah; Ryan Phan,

Search For 4 Kids Thrown Off Ala. Bridge

No Bond For Father Accused Of Capital Murder; Judge Calls Crime "Heinous"

 
(CBS/AP) Search crews in boats resumed looking Thursday for the bodies of four young children while a judge denied bond for their father, who is accused of throwing them from an 80-foot coastal bridge.

Boats went back into waters around the Dauphin Island bridge early Thursday, though heavy fog kept divers and helicopters on hold.

Lam Luong, 37, was charged with four counts of capital murder in the death of the children, who range in age from 4 months to 3 years, after he broke down and confessed, authorities said Wednesday.

District Judge Charles McKnight denied bond Thursday morning, describing the allegations as "heinous."

Luong's court-appointed attorney, Joe Kulakowski, was conferring with him and not immediately available for comment.

District Attorney John Tyson Jr. declined to discuss details of the case.

Authorities believe Luong threw the children from the bridge after an argument with his wife, but they gave no details on what the dispute was about. Luong had a crack cocaine possession charge pending in Georgia, and his wife's brother-in-law described Luong as a drug addict.

The search for the bodies had been halted Wednesday afternoon when the dense fog rolled in and obscured the bridge, a three-mile span over the Intracoastal Waterway. Authorities held out little hope of finding them.

While some friends and family members maintained hope the children remain alive, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said searchers were "in the recovery stage at this point."

Luong's wife, 23-year-old Kieu Ngoc Phan, discovered the children were missing Monday and went with Luong to the police, Tyson said. Luong initially told them the children were with his girlfriend from New York in a hotel in Gulfport, Miss., and that she had failed to return them, according to family members and authorities.

Based in part on a witness's account, investigators said the children were thrown from the highest part of the two-lane span Monday morning, a point about 80 feet above the waterway. The channel below that part of the bridge has a depth of 55 feet.

Phan's brother-in-law, Kam Phengsisomboun, said he was told that a witness saw someone throw a bundle from the bridge and then saw three children in a nearby car. Tyson said there was a witness but declined to give details.

Luong came to the United States from Vietnam in 1984 and was employed as a shrimpboat fisherman. He and his wife lived with their children and a grandmother in a brick home near Bayou La Batre, a fishing village 20 miles southwest of Mobile, with a large Southeast Asian community.

Presumed dead are: 4-month-old Danny; 1-year-old Lindsey; 2-year-old Hannah; and 3-year-old Ryan Phan, who was raised from infancy by Luong but is not his biological child.

Family members tell CBS affiliate WKRG-5 in Mobile that the youngest had heart problems and had just gotten out of the hospital.

Phengsisomboun, who is from Thailand, said Luong had quickly spent money from an insurance settlement after an automobile accident. He said he initially feared Luong had traded the children for drugs.

Luong was arrested Oct. 10 in Hinesville, Ga., on a charge accusing him of possessing crack. Luong called police and "requested an officer at his residence because he had used narcotics and wanted to turn himself in," according to a report by Officer Jeffrey Liu.

Luong was giving his children a bath when Liu arrived, the report states. He eventually emerged from the bathroom and pulled from a shirt pocket a pipe and "a whitish yellow rock that appeared to be crack cocaine," Liu wrote.

A grand jury has yet to act on the case. Luong advised Hinesville authorities on Nov. 1 that he had moved.


EVERGEEN, Ala., Jan. 27, 2006
 
A man and woman are in police custody in the possible sexual abuse of a 3-year-old girl and teenage boy thanks, authorities say, to the diligence of a Decatur, Ga., woman who continued to insist that authorities look into the case.
Conecuh County District Attorney Tommy Chapman said the man  was charged with two counts of rape and one count of sodomy.
 
The woman  was charged with child abuse.  Chapman said both had given investigators several false names.
 
The two  were arrested after Tracie Lee Dean saw a 3-year-old girl with a man while shopping in an Evergreen, Ala., convenience store on Jan. 15, Dean said something about the little girl didn't seem right, and the man wasn't treating the
child like a relative. Dean  became suspicious and was compelled to act after she saw the child's behavior and the vacant look in her eyes.
 
"I said, 'Are you coming with me?' " Dean said. "And she wouldn't let go of the door, and so I wouldn't let go of the door, and then the man said, 'You can let go of the door now.' "
 
Chapman said Dean's persistence led to the discovery of two suspected cases of child abuse that he described as among the most severe uncovered in the county.
"We believe the 17-year-old boy is a victim of sexual abuse," he said, "and a doctor who examined the 3-year-old girl said there was evidence she was repeatedly raped."
 
Dean copied the license plate number on the man's Chevy Suburban as he left the store with the girl, but a 911 dispatcher told her everything checked out with the car.
Haunted by the girls' eyes, Dean did some Internet checking for missing and exploited children and found a girl in Ohio who resembled the child.
She called Ohio authorities and a national hot line for missing children before finally contacting the detective working the Ohio case, but Dean felt no one was taking her seriously.
 
"I called the John Walsh show ('America's Most Wanted'), 'Crimestoppers,' and finally I had the tag run," she said. "It came back to the 2001 Honda. It didn't check out.  "Then I called the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, and asked if they could tell me who responded to the 911 call. I asked them to look at the store's videotape. They said they needed a court order.
 
Dean then took matters into her own hands, calling the store and driving back to
Evergreen with some friends. She was looking at the security video when Evergreen Police Officer Brian Davis walked in by chance. He wrote a report and started looking for the girl and man. Davis found the man living with the woman and two children in a squalid home along a remote stretch of U.S. 84, Chapman said. He said the victims both appear to be severely traumatized and are in state custody.
 
Dean said she just knew something was wrong that day in the store.
"I cried when I left there that Sunday," she said. "I'm crying right now just thinking of it. I had to go through hell before anyone would listen to me. I thought I was going crazy. I'm just glad she's safe."
 
This story is also posted on Our Heroes Page
 
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A Russellville man was arrested Thursday and charged with child abuse, Police Chief Chris Hargett said.

Juan Baltazar, 55, of 417 Hillcrest Street in Russellville, was charged with aggravated child abuse, a Class B felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison upon conviction.

Hargett said local school officials notified his department that a child at the school was excessively bruised.

“Based on the evidence we had, we obtained a warrant and made the arrest,” Hargett said.

Hargett said Baltazar admitted to causing the bruises, but claimed they were from punishing the child, not abuse.

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