San Francisco nursing student Michelle Le was training with her co-workers on May 27, 2011, when she ran out to her car in the hospital parking garage to retrieve something. She never returned. Four months later, her remains were found in a nearby wilderness area. Ahead of Dateline NBC’s episode about her disappearance and murder, here’s what you need to know about Le’s cause of death and who was convicted of the crime.
Michelle’s Le’s Cause of Death Was Undetermined
By the time Le’s body was found on September 17, 2011, her remains were mostly decomposed, which made determining the precise cause of death extremely difficult. However, as prosecutor Butch Ford said during the grand jury indictment, a cause of death is “not required to prove that somebody died,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Over the course of the investigation, authorities became suspicious of Le’s former friend Giselle Diwag Esteban because Esteban had started practically “hunting” Le out of the conviction that Le and Esteban’s ex, Scott Marasigan, were having an affair.
Eventually, cellphone transmissions showed that on the night Le disappeared, her phone and Esteban’s phones traveled similar routes into the Niles Canyon and Sunol Canyon areas, so that is where authorities narrowed their search. Esteban was charged with Le’s murder on September 7 and then 10 days later, investigators found Le’s remains in a shallow grave in the Sunol-Pleasanton canyon area.
While the medical examiner was unable to determine the exact cause of death, police found a “dinner-plate-sized pool” of Le’s blood found in the parking structure along with some of Le’s hair. Le’s blood was also found in her car and her DNA was found on Esteban’s shoe. DNA matching Esteban was also found on the steering wheel and turn signal of Le’s car.
Esteban Got 25 Years for Le’s Murder
In December 2011, Esteban was indicted on a first-degree murder charge. She was found guilty in October 2012 and sentenced to 25 years in December 2012. The grand jury transcripted showed that Esteban became increasingly enraged toward Le and Marasigan because she was convinced they were having an affair.
Marasigan was Esteban’s ex with whom she had a daughter, born in 2005, and whom she claimed was the father of her second child. Esteban was pregnant at the time of Le’s murder and later gave birth to a health baby boy while in prison, shortly before Thanksgiving 2011, according to the San Francisco Gate.
“No matter how many times Marasigan denied an affair, Esteban refused to believe him,” said prosecutor Ford. “And she became fixated.”
Ford also said that Esteban “began essentially to hunt down Michelle” and planned out her abduction and murder. He said Esteban “attacked [Le] in the parking lot, threw her body into her own car, drove to a makeshift grave, and buried her body.”
When Esteban was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Judge Jon Rolefson said he had not “seen or heard any hint of remorse” from her and also that he had never seen more condemning circumstantial evidence pointing to a killer than what the police and prosecutors had on Esteban, according to the San Francisco Gate.
Dateline airs Fridays and Saturdays on NBC.