Prosecutor: I tried to imagine terror of homicide victims dumped in Schuylkill

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Tam Minh Le

 

A prosecutor went to a parking lot on Kelly Drive, just north of the Schuylkill River rowing grandstands, to imagine what it was like for three men to be repeatedly stabbed there and dumped into the water two years ago, he said Wednesday.

"What must it have felt like to be on your knees?" Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron asked a Common Pleas Court jury in his closing argument. "They can't see. They can't talk."

Victim Vu "Kevin" Huynh, 31, was stabbed 32 times. His brother Viet Huynh, 28, was stabbed 11 times. A younger friend of theirs, Tan Voong, was stabbed eight times. All three men were blindfolded with duct tape, their hands and legs bound.

Each was then kicked into the river, one by one, and left to die. The brothers' bodies, their legs weighed down with tar buckets, were found floating in the river later that morning, Aug. 27, 2014. Their friend survived.

At the double-homicide trial of defendant Tam Minh Le, 44, prosecutors told jurors that Le is guilty - not just beyond reasonable doubt, but beyond all doubt - of first-degree murder in the brothers' slayings and of the attempted murder of their friend.

Authorities contend the brothers were slain over a $100,000 debt they owed to Le and his associates, some from New York. The brothers - drug dealers who sold large quantities of marijuana - gambled away the money or used it to buy drugs, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Daniel Conner told jurors in his closing argument Wednesday that his client has been made a scapegoat.

Le took the stand in his own defense last week, contending that he, too, was a victim. He said he also was beaten and tied up in his Southwest Philadelphia garage, on 72nd Street near Grays Avenue, on the previous night, Aug. 26, 2014.

But Cameron pointed to statements made by Le's girlfriend and by Voong, among other evidence, to refute the defense's claim.

Evidence during the trial showed that on the afternoon of Aug. 26, 2014, Viet Huynh went to Le's house, and that Le then called a New York cellphone number, the prosecutor said. Later that night, at Le's garage, Viet and Vu Huynh were tied up, stripped down to their underwear and beaten by Le and four associates, Cameron said.

When the brothers didn't have the money owed, one called Voong, who was able to scrape up $41,000.

Voong, now 24, testified during the trial that when he got to Le's house, Le met him outside, then brought him to the garage. Voong said that two to four masked men were in the garage and that he was beaten and tied up. Sometime later, he and the Huynh brothers were driven in a van to the Schuylkill, where they repeatedly were stabbed.

Voong said that after they all were dumped into the river, he heard Le say: " 'It's done.' " Then the van left.

Cellphone records placed Le on Kelly Drive about 1:50 a.m. Aug. 27.

Conner contended that Voong is a liar. He said that his client was taken to the river by the men who were owed money, but that he was driven away before the Huynh brothers and Voong were stabbed and dumped into the river.

Cameron, however, told jurors that the defense's story didn't make sense. If Le had been a victim and was afraid of the killers, Cameron asked, why did he flee to Delaware later that morning, leaving his girlfriend and five children in their 72nd Street house?

Le's then-girlfriend, Bich Vo, told police in a December 2014 statement that Le asked her and the children later on Aug. 27 to meet him in Delaware. They all then drove to Rochester, N.Y., where Le previously lived.

"If he was the real victim, why did he run? Flight - consciousness of guilt," Cameron said.

On the way to Rochester, Vo said in the statement, Le confessed. He told her that the Huynh brothers owed money to him and some men from New York, and that because the brothers didn't have the money, they were beaten up in the garage, blindfolded, and taken to the river.

Le said the brothers' friend also didn't have the money, so he, too, was beaten and stabbed, Vo's statement said.

Le was the only person arrested. Authorities do not know the masked men's identities.

The jury will begin deliberations Thursday morning.

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