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Less than 30 hours after nursing student Michelle Le went missing from a Hayward parking lot last year, murder defendant Giselle Esteban told police she didn’t know what happened to Le, according to a taped statement played in court today. Esteban, a 28-year-old Union City woman who attended high school with Le in San Diego and had been a close friend, also tearfully told Hayward police Inspector Fraser Ritchie, the lead investigator in the case, to “just find her,” referring to Le. Le, a 26-year-old San Mateo woman who was attending Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, disappeared from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward around 7 p.m. on May 27, 2011. A highly-publicized search ensued for nearly four months until her decomposed body was found in a remote area between Pleasanton and Sunol on Sept. 17, 2011. Ritchie testified today that he and other officers went to Esteban’s apartment just before midnight on May 28, 2011. Ritchie told Esteban in the taped interview played in court that he wanted to talk to her because other witnesses in the investigation had told police that she and Le had a tumultuous relationship.
Esteban admitted to Ritchie that she had gone to the Kaiser facility in Hayward in the evening of May 27 and had seen Le on a walkway between the hospital and the parking lot but said she then went home and rested the remainder of the evening because she was tired. Ritchie testified today that he found Esteban’s statement about being able to see Le on the walkway “troubling” because he knew from experience that someone on the street wouldn’t be able to see the walkway well enough to identify a person on the walkway or even to determine the person’s gender. When Ritchie asked Esteban if she could help police find Le, Esteban said, “No, I don’t know where she is. I don’t know how to help you find her.” Esteban was under suspicion for many months in connection with Le’s disappearance but wasn’t charged with Le’s murder until Sept. 8, 2011, — nine days before Le’s body was found — based on DNA evidence and cellphone records. Prosecutor Butch Ford alleged in his opening statement last week that Esteban killed Le out of “jealousy, hatred and rage” because she blamed Le for wrecking her relationship with her daughter’s father, Scott Marasigan.
Marasigan testified last week that he dated Le for a month in 2003 but he never had sex with her and his friendship with Le didn’t interfere with his relationship with Esteban, with whom he had an off-and-on relationship before eventually winning sole custody of their daughter and permanently splitting up with her. Ford said DNA evidence, videotapes and cell phone records indicate that Esteban attacked Le in the parking lot at the Kaiser facility and then drove Le’s body to the remote area where it was found nearly four months later. Defense attorney Andrea Auer said in her opening statement that Esteban did not plan to kill Le but instead snapped as a result of “extreme provocation and heat of passion.” Testimony in Esteban’s trial will resume Thursday morning. It’s expected that the prosecution will rest on Monday and then Auer will begin presenting defense witnesses in the case.
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