[Second update: The SF Chronicle reports today that Esteban has indeed been charged with Michelle Le’s murder and will appear at a Hayward court this afternoon. Read on for more details and An’s reflections on the case.]
For those who’ve been following my stories, you might have noticed that many of my articles have had some relevance to missing persons cases. I’ve done extensive coverage on the G.I. Joe Search & Rescue Foundation, and posted an update on Michelle Le, the nursing student who disappeared from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward, CA.
What I haven’t discussed in detail is the reason as to why.
When I applied to become a writer for VTP, it was just a week or so after my friend Joe disappeared… and then was recovered, in the river. I packed up my life in New York and came back home to California to assist with the start-up of G.I. Joe. In no time, we were called on to come help with the beginning of the public search effort for 26-year-old Le – our first official mission.
During the briefing back in June, rescue volunteers were instructed not to release any photos or information from that weekend’s search. The authorities didn’t want anything leaked that might compromise their investigation.
Three months later, Le still hasn’t been found, but there are finally some new developments in her case. Giselle Esteban, 27, of Union City, CA, was arrested Wednesday on the suspicion of murder.
Le and Esteban were good friends and former classmates at Mount Carmel High School in San Diego, CA, but had a falling out after Le supposedly ruined Esteban’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend and child’s father, Scott Marasigan.
Esteban strongly believed that Le was a threat to her former relationship with Marasigan, but the ex-boyfriend said that this frustrated him because it wasn’t true. Marasigan had filed a restraining order against the suspect three days before Le disappeared back on May 27, describing her behavior as being volatile. Esteban sent her ex-boyfriend numerous threatening texts and was accused of stalking him.
Since classifying the case as a homicide, police considered Esteban a person of interest and took her briefly into custody. Afterwards, she contacted a TV news station to openly state her reasons for hating Le, but denied having anything to do with her disappearance.
It was a combination of DNA evidence and security footage that led to Esteban’s arrest. The security camera at the Hayward Kaiser hospital recorded proof that Esteban was in the facility’s parking garage before and after Le went missing. The bottom of one of Esteban’s shoes had Le’s DNA on it, and further physical evidence confirmed that Esteban had been in Le’s car.
According to Hayward police Lt. Roger Keener at Wednesday’s press conference, both women’s phones traveled a similar path from the medical center to the Niles and Sunol Canyon areas, as indicated by cell phone records. (Niles Canyon was the search area G.I. Joe was assigned to in June.)
“The reality is there isn’t one piece of evidence or statement that was necessarily a tipping point,” said Lt. Keener. “It is the totality of the circumstances as the investigation culminated.”
Esteban, who is currently pregnant, is being held without bail at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. Her arraignment is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at the Hayward Hall of Justice.
Now, Joe and Le’s disappearances bear no similarities and are completely unrelated, yet Le’s case hits very close to home for me. Why?
- It was the first missing person case I became involved with after Joe’s incident.
- My own mother is a nurse who works long, late hours almost daily. I now worry for her safety more than ever.
- Le’s demographics match my own (Vietnamese American, female, mid-20s). I can’t go anywhere now without being paranoid for my own safety.
- I met Le’s family during that initial search with G.I. Joe. Meeting them and seeing them in their despair gave me a taste of their reality, and, while I was up there in Hayward – it fleetingly became my own.
I had to wait just 48 hours before Joe was found and I received that anticipated, yet highly dreaded, phone call. For Le’s family, it’s been over three months.
I can only hope that Esteban’s arrest marks the near end of the mystery of Le’s whereabouts. So far, the suspect in custody refuses to speak, but Le’s younger brother, Michael, hopes that she’ll come forward with information that would finally close this case.
“She shouldn’t drag this on any longer than it has to go,” he said. “No one should have to deal with a loved one who is missing.”