Michelle Hoang Thi Le was a 26-year old
nursing student who disappeared on May 27, 2011 from the Kaiser
Permanente Medical Center in the San Francisco Bay Area city of
Le's car was found the next morning around 9 am
parked on Ponderosa Court, about half a mile from the medical center.
Le grew up in San Diego County and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area
for college and nursing school at Samuel Merritt University in
Her family put up billboards and offered a $65,000
reward for information about her whereabouts. Over the next four
months at least eight volunteer search efforts were undertaken, some
organized by the Klaas Kids Foundation, founded by Marc Klaas after
his daughter Polly was kidnapped and murdered in 1993.
A variety of missing persons organizations joined
in the searches. The eighth search found decomposed human remains in a
remote canyon area on September 17. On September 19, 2011 the Alameda
County coroner's office positively identified the remains to be those
of Michelle Le.
Police suspected from the beginning that she had
been killed by someone she knew. Giselle Diwal Esteban of Union City,
California, a Filipino-American former friend of Le, was arrested on
September 7 and charged with her murder, although a body had not yet
been found at that time.
Authorities said that they had DNA evidence in the
form of blood stains found in Le's car and on Esteban's shoe, and that
security video footage confirmed Esteban's presence in the area at the
time Le disappeared.
Esteban allegedly blamed Le for ruining her
relationship with her ex-boyfriend, with whom she had a child, but
denied any involvement in Le's disappearance. Esteban was indicted on
a murder charge December 14, 2011. She entered a not-guilty plea. A
trial date was set for September 17, 2012.
On October 29, 2012 a jury convicted Esteban of
first-degree murder. At the December 10 sentencing, Esteban was given
25 years to life in prison.
Union City woman guilty of killing ex-friend
Henry K. Lee - Sfgate.com
Monday, October 29, 2012
An Alameda County jury convicted a Union City woman
Monday of first-degree murder for stalking and killing her former high
school friend out of jealousy.
Giselle Esteban, 28, showed no emotion when the
Oakland jury delivered its verdict after deliberating for a week. She
could face 25 years to life in prison for killing nursing student
Michelle Le, when she is sentenced Dec. 10 by Judge Jon Rolefson in
Alameda County Superior Court.
Le's relatives, sitting in the front row of the
gallery, bowed their heads and clasped each other's hands when they
heard the verdict. Several pumped their fists.
"We were hoping and praying that they would make
the right call, and they did," Le's brother Michael Le said outside
court. "I feel a tremendous burden has been lifted, but we still have
to process it."
Krystine Dinh, Le's cousin, burst into tears after
the verdict was read. Asked if she believed Esteban should remain in
prison for the rest of her life, Dinh said, "She took Michelle's life,
and that's for God to judge."
Esteban tracked Le's movements before attacking the
26-year-old San Mateo woman in the parking garage of Kaiser Permanente
Medical Center in Hayward on May 27, 2011, prosecutors said. She then
drove a dying Le in the victim's car and dumped her body off a path in
Sunol Canyon east of Fremont.
Le's skeletal remains weren't found for more than
three months. The cause of death could not be determined.
Esteban did not testify in her three-week trial.
The two women had been friends while attending the
same high school in San Diego, prosecutors said. But Deputy District
Attorney Butch Ford told jurors that Esteban grew to hate Le when the
victim had a brief relationship with Scott Marasigan, Esteban's
ex-boyfriend and father of their 6-year-old daughter.
Esteban was convinced Marasigan was infatuated with
Le even after the two broke up, Ford said.
Although Marasigan denied his relationship with Le
was sexual, Esteban sent him texts warning that if he didn't cut Le
out of his life, "punishment would be swift," Ford told jurors.
Esteban also told Marasigan that both he and Le deserved to die, said
the prosecutor, who called Esteban a "sociopath."
Esteban's attorney Andrea Auer acknowledged that
her client had killed Le, but she urged jurors to convict her only of
voluntary manslaughter. Le had provoked Esteban, she said, and Esteban
committed the killing "in the heat of passion."
Marasigan filed for a temporary restraining order
against Esteban three days before Le disappeared.
Before the slaying, Esteban did a computer search
for Le's home address, stole a security badge and class roster from
staff at Samuel Merritt University, which Le was attending, and called
employees in attempts to learn Le's schedule, Ford said.
"They got to the right result," Ford said of the
jury outside court.
Auer left court without commenting.
Esteban pleads not guilty to slaying of nursing
student Michelle Le
By Eric Kurhi - Hayward Daily Review
January 20, 2012
OAKLAND -- More than four months after her arrest,
Giselle Esteban, accused of killing her one-time friend nursing
student Michelle Le, entered a not guilty plea and waived her right to
a speedy trial on Friday.
The case had been bogged down due to Esteban's
pregnancy and repeated requests for continuations until prosecutors
secured a grand jury indictment on Dec. 14, which expedites the
process by eliminating the need for a preliminary hearing.
Before Esteban entered her plea at the Rene C.
Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, prosecutor Butch Ford and defense
attorney Andrea Auer had a 10-minute conversation with an animated
Judge Carrie Panetta, who said at a previous hearing that she would
not allow further delays without a compelling reason.
Ford said outside of court that he hopes to bring
the matter to trial in August, while Auer said she has no idea how
long it will take.
Esteban, 27, was indicted after a three-day hearing
that went over evidence including DNA matches, surveillance camera
footage and increasingly threatening text messages sent from Esteban's
phone to Scott Marasigan, the father of her first child. Testimony
held that the Union City resident grew increasingly angry about
Marasigan's continued friendship with Le, and portended severe
repercussions if he did not break off all contact.
Those text message threats included statements that
both Le and Marasigan had "dug their own graves" and that Le "would
not be around much longer."
Ford told jurors that Esteban became "so enraged
that she began essentially to hunt down Michelle," and on Friday said
he does not believe the trial will take a particularly long time once
a date is set.
Le vanished May 27 while on a break from her
clinical duties as a nursing student at Kaiser Permanente Medical
Center in Hayward.
Her disappearance triggered an outpouring from the
community, after family members and friends made numerous public
appeals for help. After a summer of rallies, publicity events and
search efforts, Le's remains were found by a search team in a rural
area near the Pleasanton-Sunol border on Sept. 17, 10 days after
Esteban was arrested.
Family members on both sides attended Friday's
hearing. Esteban's relatives declined to comment, and Le's family has
been advised by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office not to
talk about the case.
Michelle Le's body found by slain teen's mother
Henry K. Lee - Sfgate.com
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The volunteer who found the body of missing nursing student Michelle
Le over the weekend was the mother of a slain San Diego teenager,
police said Tuesday.
Carrie McGonigle, the mother of 14-year-old Amber
Dubois, and her search dog found Le's remains Saturday in Sunol Canyon
in Alameda County, said Hayward police Lt. Roger Keener.
McGonigle and her dog, named Amber, were searching
an area off a dirt path between Foothill Road and railroad tracks,
west of Interstate 680 and south of the Castlewood Country Club in
Pleasanton, when she came across the remains.
McGonigle's daughter and Chelsea King, 17, of San
Diego were raped and killed by registered sex offender John Gardner
III, who is serving a life sentence. Amber disappeared in 2009, and
Chelsea vanished a year later.
McGonigle declined to comment Tuesday, saying she
would speak about the discovery today.
"Carrie happened to be the right person on the
right team at the right place at the right time," said Marc Klaas,
whose daughter, Polly, was kidnapped and killed by career criminal
Richard Allen Davis in 1993. The KlaasKids Foundation assisted in
"I have no doubt in my mind that this is of great
personal satisfaction to Carrie and that Amber is looking down on her
from heaven with pride in her heart and a big smile on her face,"
The Alameda County coroner has yet to determine how
Le, 26, died.
In a statement, Le's family said they are planning
a memorial service to give her a "proper goodbye."
"Thank you for your support, prayers and thoughts.
Our family has greatly appreciated, and would be at a loss without,
the help of so many people and volunteers," the statement said.
The defendant in Le's slaying, Giselle Esteban, 27,
of Union City, has not entered a plea. She will return to court Sept.
Esteban, who is pregnant, and Le attended high
school together in San Diego. Cell phone records show that after Le
disappeared from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center's garage in Hayward,
both women's cell phones "traveled on a similar path" to the Niles and
Sunol Canyon areas in Alameda County, police said.
Le was last seen May 27, when she went to her car
during a break in a clinical nursing lesson at Kaiser. Police believe
that Esteban attacked her in the hospital's garage.
Le, who lived in San Mateo, was a student at
Oakland's Samuel Merritt University and hoped to become a nurse
practitioner like her mother, who died of cancer when Le was a
Esteban told KGO-TV before she was arrested that
she blamed Le for breaking up her relationship with a man with whom
Esteban had a child. She denied, however, that she had anything to do
with Le's disappearance.
Steve Clark, a former Santa Clara County prosecutor
who is now a defense attorney, said the discovery of Le's body is
"huge piece of the prosecution case, because it then establishes
Michelle Le is dead. They get over that hurdle. But it may be also
that there are forensic indications of how Michelle died.
"They're going to spend a lot of time in an autopsy
trying to establish cause of death," Clark said. "Now, it is difficult
because the body has been gone for many months, but it is an important
piece of the puzzle, and it's also something that the defense is going
to want to analyze, to see if cause of death can be established - or
lack of a cause of death. That's helpful to the defense."
Michelle Le search turns up body in Sunol Canyon
Henry K. Lee - Sfgate.com
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Sunol -- Ten days after Hayward police arrested a
woman on suspicion of murdering a nursing student whose body has not
been found, a volunteer searcher discovered human remains Saturday in
rural Alameda County.
The decomposed remains were found about 10:30 a.m.
in Sunol Canyon, a remote, rugged area off Interstate 680 between
Pleasanton and Sunol. The remains haven't been identified, and because
investigators were unable to determine the gender, they can't say
whether they believe the body is that of Michelle Le, who disappeared
in May, said Hayward police Lt. Roger Keener.
But the remains were found in the same area where
police believe Le's body had been dumped by the suspect, her former
high school friend Giselle Esteban, who was arrested Sept. 7.
Cell phone records show that after Le disappeared
from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center's parking garage, both
women's phones "traveled on a similar path" from the Hayward hospital
to the Niles and Sunol Canyon areas in Alameda County, Keener said.
Hayward police and members of the Alameda County
sheriff's crime lab and coroner's office were on the scene for most of
the day Saturday.
The discovery came during the eighth search
organized by Le's family. The effort was assisted by the KlaasKids
Foundation and Marc Klaas, whose daughter, Polly, was kidnapped and
killed by career criminal Richard Allen Davis in 1993.
"We've always had one goal, and that's to help the
family find Michelle," Klaas said Saturday. "And if that's what
occurred today, then we've been successful in our efforts."
Le was last seen around 7 p.m. May 27, when she
went to her car during a break in a clinical nursing lesson at the
Kaiser hospital on Hesperian Boulevard in Hayward. Police believe that
Esteban, Le's former classmate at Mount Carmel High School in San
Diego, attacked her in the hospital's garage.
Esteban, 27, told an interviewer shortly after Le
vanished that she openly hated Le for ruining her relationship with
her former boyfriend. She denied having anything to do with the
26-year-old Le's disappearance, but police have outlined evidence that
they say points to Esteban as the killer.
Le's blood was found in her 2010 Honda CRV, which
she had parked in the Kaiser hospital's parking garage. The car was
discovered a half mile away the day after she was last seen.
Le's DNA was also found on the bottom of one of
Esteban's shoes, Keener said. Security camera footage placed Esteban
at the parking garage before and after Le disappeared, and physical
evidence confirmed that Esteban was in Le's Honda, Keener said.
Esteban, who is pregnant, was arrested at her
condominium on Monterra Terrace in Union City, which is about 12 miles
from the site where the body was found Saturday. She is being held
without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
Police have not cited a specific motive for the
killing but did note the interview that Esteban gave to KGO shortly
after Le was last seen in which she blamed Le for destroying her
relationship with Scott Marasigan of Fremont, her ex-boyfriend and the
father of their 5-year-old daughter.
Marasigan said Saturday that he didn't want to
speculate as to whether the remains were those of Le. But asked if he
was grateful that searchers had been looking for her, he said,
"Absolutely. Our main concern is to bring Michelle back."
DNA evidence, surveillance footage led to arrest
in Michelle Le case
By Eric Kurhi - Oakland Tribune
September 14, 2011
HAYWARD -- DNA evidence and surveillance camera
footage were key pieces of evidence that led to the arrest of Giselle
Esteban on Wednesday on suspicion of killing her former friend
Michelle Le, a nursing student who disappeared more than three months
Police said bloodstains inside Le's car belong to
Le, who disappeared May 27, and her DNA was found on one of Esteban's
shoes collected during a May 29 search of the suspect's home.
Security camera footage at Kaiser Permanente
Medical Center in Hayward revealed that Esteban was in the parking
structure before and after Le disappeared, and cellphone records
indicate that both women's phones traveled a similar route immediately
after the disappearance -- with some transmissions coming from the
Niles Canyon and Sunol Canyon areas.
There also was evidence indicating that Esteban had
been inside Le's car, which was found the day after she disappeared
about a half mile from Kaiser.
"Make no mistake, today's arrest does not mark the
end of the investigation," said Hayward police Lt. Roger Keener. "We
will not consider this investigation to be complete until Michelle is
He added that investigators waited to make the
arrest until enough evidence came back to indicate Esteban is
responsible, and they "did not want to rush to judgment."
Police arrested Esteban, 27, without incident and
searched her Union City home shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday. Several
officers were seen leaving the complex with shopping bags about noon,
and they confiscated Esteban's Honda CR-V.
Keener said there is nothing to indicate that
anyone else was involved in Le's disappearance.
Le's family clutched one another during a news
conference at the Hayward Police Department on Wednesday afternoon,
and cousin Krystine Dinh said, "No words can adequately explain how we
She said they have not given up hope and that their
mission "was, is, and will always be to find Michelle and bring her
Le's brother, Michael, urged Esteban to come
forward with any information that could bring the case to a
"If (Esteban) could feel the pain she has caused
us, so much turmoil, we've been robbed of our lives right now," he
said. "She shouldn't drag this on any longer than it has to go. No one
should have to deal with a loved one who is missing."
Le, a 26-year-old San Mateo resident, disappeared
about 7 p.m. May 27 while on a break from her duties at Kaiser
Permanente Medical Center in Hayward, where she shadowed medical
personnel as part of her nursing school curriculum.
While she took her cellphone and keys, she left her
wallet and purse behind and had plans to drive to Reno to visit
friends later that night.
Police classified the case as a homicide shortly
after the disappearance, and briefly took Esteban into custody.
Esteban then contacted a television news station to
tell them that though she dislikes Le and blames her for ruining the
relationship she had with her child's father, she had nothing to do
with Le's disappearance. The two grew up together in San Diego and
were good friends in high school.
Esteban was the subject of a restraining order
filed by her ex-boyfriend and child's father May 24, days before Le's
disappearance. It describes erratic and threatening behavior,
including Esteban threatening to shoot herself if the man did not
speak to her, and indicated that he believed she was in possession of
It also described multiple text messages sent once
a day for a month to her former boyfriend, "telling me to put a bullet
in my brain."
"This surprises me and doesn't surprise me," said
the former boyfriend, Scott Marasigan, on Wednesday. "You never know
what someone is capable of doing until they do it."
Marasigan said that it's frustrating to think that
Esteban felt Le was a threat to their relationship.
"There's nothing to that," he said, adding that he
never saw any indication that Esteban might be targeting Le.
"I thought it was all against me," he said.
Since initially contacting the news station,
Esteban has declined to comment. Last month, she was granted
supervised custody of her 5-year-old daughter, despite Marasigan's
assertions that she displays "manic behavior" and was the subject of a
kidnapping and homicide investigation.
A neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said
that most of the people who live in the complex on Monterra Terrace
stick to themselves, and that it is "scary" to think she may have been
living near someone involved with Le's disappearance.
Esteban is scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m.
Thursday at the Hayward Hall of Justice.