Girlfriend Strangler Convicted Kevin Le Killed The Woman With A Shoelace - And Then Tried To Kill Himself, A Jury Said.

Posted: February 10, 1996

A Montgomery County jury yesterday rejected a man's claim that two masked assailants sneaked into his Hatfield apartment in January 1995, strangled his girlfriend with one of his shoelaces, and forced him to slit his own throat.

Kevin P. Le, also known as Vinh Phuoc Le, had claimed that the bizarre attack was revenge for his taking another Vietnamese man's wife.

But after nearly eight hours of deliberations, the jury found that Le, 28, was guilty of first-degree murder in the strangulation and stabbing of Liana Mai Le, and that he had tried to commit suicide by repeatedly wounding himself with a steak knife.

Le, a slight man with slicked black hair, stared ahead, expressionless, as the verdict was announced. Judge Maurino J. Rossanese Jr. immediately sentenced him to life imprisonment without parole.

``We thank God for giving the jury the wisdom to make the right decision,'' a cousin of Liana Mai Le said as his relatives shook hands with jurors outside the courtroom.

In his closing arguments Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Mark S. Miller called the killing ``carnage'' and said Le attacked his girlfriend in a rage because she was going to leave him and return to her husband.

``Every single time he pulled the lace through the eye of the sneaker, he had the opportunity to stop himself,'' Miller said, yanking a lace out of Le's white Reebok as he spoke.

When police arrived at Le's apartment Jan. 15, 1995, they had to kick in the door, which was locked from the inside. They found the couple lying in a pool of blood, the rooms in disarray, and Liana Mai Le's 6-month-old daughter with a bottle of Mr. Clean tipped over next to her. Paramedics smelled the cleaning fluid on the girl's breath.

Miller said that Le had tried to poison the girl.

And in statements to emergency medical personnel that were introduced as evidence, Le admitted the poisoning and the attack.

When asked by one technician whether he had injured his wife and the baby, Le responded yes. And on the way to an ambulance, he said: ``It's a terrible life, please kill me.''

Referring to the statement yesterday, Miller turned to Le and said: ``Well, Mr. Le, at least you have yours.''

Defense attorney Marc Robert Steinberg told the jury that Le made the statements while in extreme shock and pointed to expert testimony during the trial that suggested Le might not have understood the questions.

Le, who testified in somewhat halting English and had an interpreter at his side, said he did not remember giving the statements.

Steinberg called the prosecution's case circumstantial and told the jury that the police failed to pursue other plausible explanations for how the attack occurred. He said that besides the statements, there was no physical evidence that Le poisoned the baby or killed his girlfriend.

Liana Mai Le and Kevin Le, both Vietnamese immigrants, met while working at a bag factory in Telford.

About three months before the killing, Liana Mai Le moved from her mother's Telford home, where she had been living with her husband and her two children. Her 2-year-old son was living with his father and maternal grandmother at the time of the killing.

According to relatives, Liana Mai Le was the last surviving child of her seven-member family. Her father and her four siblings died while fleeing Vietnam a decade ago. Their tiny boat broke down and drifted for days off the coast of Vietnam.Only Liana Mai Le and her mother survived the journey.

Liana Mai Le's two children now live with her mother and husband in the Telford area.

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