Giselle Esteban pleaded not guilty today to a charge that she murdered nursing student Michelle Le, who disappeared in Hayward last May and whose body was found in September. Le, a 26-year-old San Mateo woman who was attending Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, disappeared from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward on May 27. Her body was found in a remote area between Pleasanton and Sunol on Sept. 17.
Esteban, a 27-year-old Union City woman who attended high school with Le in San Diego, was charged with Le’s murder on Sept. 8 — before Le’s body was found — based on DNA evidence and cellphone records. An Alameda County criminal grand jury indicted Esteban on an identical murder charge on Dec. 14 at the end of a three-day hearing. Prosecutors sought the indictment to try to speed up her trial. The indictment allows prosecutors to bypass the step of having a preliminary hearing at which a judge determines if there is enough evidence against a defendant for a case to proceed to trial.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta ordered Esteban, who is being held at the county jail without bail, to return to court on Feb. 17, when a trial date might be set. According to the transcript of the grand jury’s hearing, prosecutors believe that Esteban stalked and murdered Le because she blamed Le for wrecking her relationship with Scott Marasigan, who is the father of Esteban’s daughter. Esteban gave birth to a second child in November while she was in custody but the father of that child hasn’t been disclosed.
Several of Esteban’s family members, including her sister, attended today’s hearing, as did Le’s brother and cousin and several other family members and friends.
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