Bizarrely, there have been two other unexplained deaths on the farm in the last four years, including that of another brother of the man, Pham Minh Duong, but no investigations were done until recently when the owner was arrested.
Duong, age not known, used to work along with his two brothers for Cao Van Lien, 40, who owns the farm in a hamlet in Dam Doi District.
Duong called Thanh Nien Wednesday and said he had fled the farm and was living in hiding for his own safety.
He, Pham Minh Hieu, 27, and Pham Minh Phung, 22, were sent to work for Lien in 2004 by their mother after her divorce.
Whenever one of them did something the owner did not like, Lien and his wife Phuong would make the other two beat him up.
Lien would also beat them.
“Phung, as the youngest of three, usually fell asleep, so he was punished frequently.
“One day his legs were swollen from a beating, but the couple still forced him to get into a ditch to catch fish fry.”
In 2009, several days prior to Phung’s death, the owners forced Duong and Hieu to dunk his head under water until he passed out.
Phung's health took a bad turn since then until he died a few days later, his body found sitting against a wall in a goat pen.
Earlier, in early 2008, a 16-year-old girl named Ut, thought to be Lien’s adopted daughter, was also found death in the farm.
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She allegedly hanged herself and was six months pregnant at that time.
Lien and his wife did not allow the three brothers to eat at the same table with them and in fact made them eat along with the farm's dogs.
Shortly after Phung died, Duong and Hieu managed to flee the farm. But Hieu was soon captured by Lien and Phuong.
Duong eluded capture.
Earlier this month, on June 12, two local farmers who came to the farm to catch snakes found Hieu’s dead body hanging from a mangrove tree.
The body had started to decay.
On June 17 the police arrested Lien to investigate the three deaths.
Neighbors said they rarely laid foot in Lien’s property, which spread over 50 hectares, including 30 ha he had leased out, since it was surrounded by electric fences and had many dogs.
Lien and Phuong are raising a six-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy, suspected to be adopted, the neighbors said.
The police found a shotgun, two hunting rifles, two swords, and a scimitar in Lien's house.