Tam Minh Le had been on the run since August - when the battered bodies of two brothers were found in the Schuylkill with their throats slit and their limbs bound with duct tape.

By the time authorities searched Le's Southwest Philadelphia house and named him as a suspect in the killings, he was already on the move. For months, authorities probed his associates for information and chased leads across the country.

And, officials say, even as U.S. marshals burst into Le's motel room in Virginia on Tuesday night, the alleged gang member tried one last time to slip from authorities' grasp. The marshals found him in the bathroom, trying to remove panels from the ceiling.

But after a brief standoff, he surrendered.

Le, 43, had been at the Motel 6 in Ashland for a week before investigators found him there, Marshal Jim Burke said Wednesday.

They had been hunting for him since a third victim in the Schuylkill attacks - who was also stabbed and thrown in the river, but escaped - identified Le to authorities.

Over the last five months, authorities tracked him to Wichita, Kan., and Rochester, N.Y. - where, in the 1990s, he served more than a dozen years in prison in a pool-hall shooting.

The search was frustrating at times, Burke said.

"But the leads kept developing. There was always something to follow up on," he said.

New information led authorities to Virginia, where deputy marshals staked out the motel, Burke said.

When Le was spotted entering a room, the marshals moved in.

Le was with his wife and three children between the ages of 2 and 5, Burke said.

Marshals hurried them out of the room, then found Le in the bathroom, Burke said.

Burke said investigators think Le had been moving around the country to evade capture, traveling by unlicensed taxicab - "anyone that would give him a ride," Burke said.

Le has a violent past, according to a "Most Wanted" poster distributed by the U.S. Marshals Service. He spent more than 12 years in prison after being convicted in the 1993 Rochester killing. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Le was convicted of first-degree manslaughter.

Authorities have alleged that he is a member of a Vietnamese gang known as "Born to Kill."

Burke said immigration officials attempted to deport Le to Vietnam after his release from prison, but Vietnam refused him entry. Burke said he did not know the details of Le's parole status after the failed deportation.

Philadelphia police have said the Schuylkill killings were connected to a Vietnamese drug ring, and that its members had given the victims - brothers Vu Huynh, 31, and Viet Huynh, 28, both of Paoli - $100,000 to buy drugs.

When the brothers instead gambled it away, they were abducted, beaten, and taken to a house in Southwest Philadelphia, where they were allowed to call a friend to bring them money, investigators said.

When their friend showed up with $40,000, he, too, was bound, beaten, and stabbed. Then all three men were driven to the Schuylkill and thrown in on the morning of Aug. 28. Police said that the brothers' throats were cut, and that they had been weighted down with buckets of tar.

The third man, who was not weighted down, staggered down Kelly Drive in his underwear, and eventually alerted police.

awhelan@philly.com

215-854-2961 @aubreyjwhelan