Stephanie Chuang talked to Michelle Le's sister and the lead investigator in the missing nursing student's case on the night the entire country learned about the Bay Area woman's murder.
It’s a Bay Area story that’s had national eyes on it since the beginning – the murder of 26-year-old Michelle Le, a nursing student who first disappeared from the Kaiser Permanente parking garage in Hayward in May 2011.
Dateline NBC producers have been in touch with the Le family and with Hayward Police, the lead investigators, for the more than year-and-a-half that have gone by.
Friday night, NBC aired the two-hour special that, for the first time, revealed footage from convicted killer Giselle Esteban’s interrogations.
One portion of it went as follows:
Insp. Madrid: You don't like her.
Ms. Esteban: Yeah. That's evident. That's very clear.
Insp. Madrid: How would you classify your dislike for her?
Ms. Esteban: How -- what do you mean? I just dislike her. I don't --
Insp. Madrid: I mean, do you hate her? Do you want to see something bad happen to her?
Ms. Esteban: No. I just want her to stay away from my child.
And she went the distance in thinking up the murder.
Inspector Fraser Ritchie with Hayward Police was the first to speak with Esteban after Michelle disappearance, describing her as both cooperative and annoyed.
He said it was clear Esteban was lying right away. “She stated she did see Michelle at Kaiser Hospital in Hayward the night before on the 27th. She stated she had never had conversation with her or anything like that but as we kept talking to her she would fabricate information,” Fraser recalled.
“She actually said at one point – I said were you arguing with her – she says I don’t remember. So right there she was telling me she was speaking with her and as the conversation progressed, we caught her in a few more lies.”
He said that Esteban did everything from going to Samuel Merritt College in Oakland where Michelle was a student, trying to register for classes there, stole a lab coat and even a key card.
Police revealed the mounds of evidence and footage to Michelle’s family on September 7, 2011 – the same day they arrested Esteban.
“Shocking and damning,” described Krystine Dinh, Michelle’s cousin.
“She had called the university several times, called different departments in the university to figure out Michelle’s schedule.
So, that amount of premeditation and conscious thinking behind her murder was really shocking.” Perhaps the hardest part was watching the footage of Michelle walking to the parking garage at Kaiser – the last place she was seen.
“We never found out the cause of death because it was out of camera view, but it’s hard,” Dinh explained. “You really just want to go into the screen, grab her and protect her. You know those last minutes of her life were really hard to see.”
The Le family members haven’t spoken with Esteban and say there’s no desire to, especially after they said she showed no hint of remorse or shadow of guilt – all the way up to a month ago when Esteban was sentenced to 25 years to life.
For people like Dinh, the way forward is keeping Michelle’s legacy alive by helping the countless other families who are struggling with the same kind of nightmare.
“Hopefully one family out there who has their loved one missing won’t feel so alone.”
Below is an interview with Dateline reporter Keith Morrison about his two hour special.
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