A jury on Thursday convicted a Southwest Philadelphia man of all counts in the 2014 gruesome beatings and stabbings of three men, who were then dumped into the Schuylkill and left to die.
When the foreman read the all-guilty verdicts in the case of Tam Minh Le, 44, the defendant looked down and bowed his head.
It took just 1 ½ hours for the panel of seven women and five men to find Le guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of brothers Vu "Kevin" Huynh, 31, and Viet Huynh, 28, both of Paoli; on one count of attempted murder in relation to the brothers' friend, Tan Voong, who survived; and on kidnapping and related offenses.
The jury will next have to decide whether to sentence Le to life in prison or to death. The penalty phase of the trial begins Friday before Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Geroff.
Federal authorities had previously said Le was a member of the Vietnamese gang "Born to Kill," but city prosecutors said after the verdict that they have found no evidence that he was a gang member or that the killings were gang-related.
Evidence showed that the Huynh brothers sold large quantities of marijuana and owed Le and his associates $100,000, but instead of paying the money back, had spent it or gambled it away.
On Aug. 26, 2014, Le and four masked men tied up and beat the Huynh brothers over the unpaid debt in a detached garage behind Le's house on 72nd Street near Grays Avenue, prosecutors said. One brother then called their friend, Voong, to help and he scraped up $41,000.
Voong, now 24, had testified that when he went to Le's house, Le took him to the garage, where Voong said he was beaten and tied up. He said he and the Huynh brothers were blindfolded with duct tape and their legs and hands bound, put in a van and driven to Kelly Drive. Just north of the Schuylkill rowing grandstands, each man was repeatedly stabbed, then dumped into the river.
The brothers' bodies, their legs weighted down with tar buckets, were found on the morning of Aug. 27, 2014. Voong, who was not weighted down, waited for a couple of hours, then clambered out of the river onto the banks.
Prosecutor Ed Cameron said outside the courthouse: "We're happy with the verdict."
Co-prosecutor Alisa Shver added: "It wasn't just enough [for Le and his associates] to kill them or stab them. They had to make them live in fear and panic." She described during the trial how the three men had been tortured - Vu Huynh was stabbed 32 times, his brother 11 times, Voong eight times.
The prosecutors said the FBI has "leads" into the other men alleged to have participated in the crimes.
A sister of the Huynh brothers looked relieved after the verdicts, but declined comment.
Separately, supporters of Le said they didn't believe he killed the brothers. Ut Le, 50, who said she was the defendant's ex-girlfriend, said: "It's really not true. It's not right."
Nawi Nhem, 46, a friend, said the defendant, who had a construction business, helped her with house repairs and didn't charge her much. "He's not greedy, he's a good man," she said. "I know he has a good heart."
This wasn't Le's first homicide conviction. He had previously been convicted of manslaughter in a 1993 Rochester, N.Y., killing.