Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Michelle Le case: High-school acquaintance charged with murder [Updated]

September 20, 2011 |  1:47 pm

Giselle Esteban, 27

A 27-year-old pregnant woman has been charged with the murder of Michelle Le, a Hayward nursing student who vanished in late May, authorities said Tuesday.

Le, 26, was working at a hospital in the Bay Area city on May 27 when she went to her car to retrieve something. She was never seen alive again.

Security cameras in the hospital garage revealed that Giselle Esteban, 27, who went to high school with Le in San Diego, was in the garage about the time Le disappeared, Hayward police said.

Traces of Le's DNA were found on one of Esteban's shoes, and cellphone records showed that both Esteban's phone and Le's were in the same area after Le disappeared, police said. 

Esteban was arrested earlier this month in connection with Le's disappearance. On Saturday, human remains were found in a remote Alameda County canyon, and authorities on Tuesday positively identified the remains as Le's body.

"The evidence against [Esteban] is going to be overwhelming," said Lt. Roger Keener, a spokesman for the Hayward Police Department.

[Updated, 2:15 p.m. Sept. 20: Keener said the remains were discovered by Carrie McGonigle, the mother of Escondido murder victim Amber Dubois, 14, who was killed in 2009. McGonigle told police that her trained search dog, Amber, found the body during the volunteer search organized by Le's family.] 

Esteban, who is now several months pregnant, told a television station earlier this year that she hated Le but had nothing to do with her disappearance. Esteban blamed Le for ruining her relationship with a boyfriend,  who fathered a child with Esteban and who has been fighting her for custody.

Keener said police have "no idea" how Le was killed but remain hopeful that the coroner's office will be able to determine a cause of death despite the condition of the remains.

The president of Samuel Merritt University, where Le was training to become a nurse, said in a news  release Tuesday that police contacted the hospital late Monday to confirm that the remains found during a search last weekend were Le's.

"Due to ongoing forensic pathology examinations, police are not detailing the exact manner and cause of Michelle's death," said Sharon Diaz, university president and CEO.


Michelle Le's remains identified

Vigils planned for missing nursing student Michelle Le

Family of missing nursing student Michelle Le join with Polly Klaas' father to distribute fliers

-- Maura Dolan

Photo: Giselle Esteban appears in a Hayward courtroom during her arraignment Sept. 9. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press