Giselle Esteban was arraigned today on a charge that she murdered her former high school classmate Michelle Le, a 26-year-old nursing student who disappeared in Hayward in May. Esteban, a 27-year-old Union City woman who was dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, told Alameda County Superior Court Judge Michael Gaffey at a brief hearing that she doesn't yet have an attorney.
Gaffey referred her to the Public Defender's Office and ordered her to return to court on Monday to be assigned an attorney and possibly enter a plea.
Esteban, who is pregnant, originally was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday but her hearing was postponed because she had undisclosed medical problems that prompted jail officials to refer her to a doctor. Although Le's body has not been found, Hayward police arrested Esteban on Wednesday and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office on Thursday charged her with murdering Le, citing DNA evidence and cellphone records.
Le disappeared on May 27 from Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center. She left the medical center around 7 p.m. that day, telling a classmate she was going to her car during a break, Hayward police spokesman Lt. Roger Keener said. She never returned, and was later reported missing. Her Honda SUV was found the next morning around 9 a.m. parked on Ponderosa Court, about a half-mile from the medical center, Keener said.
He said blood was found in the vehicle, and it was later determined to be Le's. Keener said footage from security cameras at the Kaiser Permanente parking structure showed that Esteban was present around the time of Le's disappearance.
Additionally, he said, evidence found inside Le's car indicated that Esteban had been in the vehicle.
He said cellphone records show from wireless tower activations that Le and Esteban traveled along the same route leaving the area just after Le disappeared. Police served a search warrant at Esteban's house on May 29 and found a pair of athletic shoes that contained Le's DNA, Keener said.
Hayward police investigators said in a probable cause statement filed in court that even though Le's body hasn't been found, they think she is dead because her financial records and social networking sites have not had any activity since she went missing. Investigators also pointed out that highly publicized searches and appeals for information have failed to turn up information on Le's whereabouts.
Keener has declined to discuss a possible motive in the case. Keener said Esteban and Le went to high school together in San Diego and also came to the Bay Area together to attend the same college. However, Keener said that at some point they had a "falling out."
He said Esteban told KGO-TV shortly after Le disappeared that the falling-out had to do with Esteban's former boyfriend, Scott Marasigan of Fremont, but he said investigators haven't confirmed that. Keener also said Marasigan had obtained a restraining order against Esteban at some point before Le was killed.
Marasigan attended Esteban's hearing today but he declined to talk to reporters and hurried away from the courthouse afterward. Le's brother, Michael Le, and her cousin, Krystine Dinh, attended the hearing as well but also didn't want to speak to reporters, leaving the courthouse by a back exit.
Bay City News