"She stalked and took Michelle's life because of an overactive imagination. Michelle did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing."
-Michael Le, Michelle's brother
It was the 27th of May 2011. A Friday. Twenty six year old Michelle Le was one of eight Merritt nursing students taking part in clinical training at Kaiser Medical Center, Hayward. She was a student at the Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California, United States.
That day, the 27th of May, Michelle Le took part in a program that required every student to pair up with a hospital nurse who worked in either labor and delivery or the maternity unit. One of Michelle's teachers, Laurie Rosa, was the supervisor for the day.
Just after 7pm that evening, a security guard at the hospital told Laurie that Michelle did not sign out. She was supposed to sign out when her shift in the maternity ward ended. Laurie looked for Michelle in the maternity ward but she couldn't see her so she sent her a text message and called her but there was no answer.
A nurse, who was working in that same maternity ward, told Laurie that she saw Michelle leave the ward at 6.45pm. Michelle said that she had to get something from her car. But she did not see her return to the ward.
At 7.30pm, the emergency room received a call. The caller identified herself as Michelle and asked to speak to the teacher. The nurse who answered the call told the caller that she would need to transfer the call to another department but the caller told her not to. She said that she just wanted the teacher to know that Michelle had called to let her know she would not be able to return that night because she received a message that her father had a heart attack.
At 9pm, Laurie was concerned and looked for Michelle's car in the parking lot. She crossed the pedestrian sky bridge and saw a white Honda CRV driving up the ramp. It stopped abruptly and backed up so quickly that it almost hit another vehicle and began to speed away.
Laurie could not see the driver but the car looked like Michelle's car so she tried to stop it on a lower floor of the parking lot but couldn't.
A missing person report was filed. Michelle had seemingly just vanished from the parking lot.
The next morning, at 9am, Michelle's white Honda SUV was found parked on Ponderosa Court, about half a mile from the medical center where she was last seen.
That same day, police obtained cell phone records for Michelle's iPhone. They called her number and the call went straight to voice mail. At 3.15pm that afternoon, police sent a text message to Michelle's phone and asked if she could call them back. They received a text message from Michelle's number stating that she could not call back as the phone battery was low.
Police looked into Michelle's life and quickly discovered that she was unwittingly part of some sort of love triangle.
In 2003, Michelle attended college at San Francisco State University and met Scott Marasigan through her friend Giselle Diwag Esteban. Michelle and Giselle knew each other since high school. Giselle and Scott were friends and they were both attending San Jose State University. After Giselle introduced them, Scott and Michelle had a brief relationship. They dated for a month. But after the brief relationship ended, they remained good friends.
Later that same year, in 2003, Giselle and Scott began dating. They both were still friends with Michelle. Michelle confided in Scott that she was pregnant, not with Scott's baby, and was planning to get an abortion. Giselle found out a few weeks later and she was furious that Michelle told Scott about the pregnancy.
Giselle and Scott broke up in 2005 but got back together when Giselle discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to their daughter in October 2005 and they lived together for three years after that. However, their relationship was fraught with problems, mainly stemming from Giselle's jealously of Michelle. She accused Scott of having an affair with Michelle multiple times. Scott denied it but she did not believe him.
Giselle and Scott ended their relationship in 2008. They shared custody of their daughter but in 2009, Scott filed a request for full custody when Giselle told him she was moving in with a new boyfriend. Scott was granted custody and moved to Northern California with his daughter. A couple of months later, Giselle moved to the same area. As Giselle, Scott and Michelle lived in the same area, Giselle suggested that they meet to discuss being friends and moving forward. Michelle was open to being friends again. Even though it was Giselle's idea to meet, that meeting intensified the dislike Giselle had for Michelle. She blamed Michelle for the fact that her relationship with Scott ended.
After that meeting, Giselle became more and more obsessed with Michelle. So much so that Scott began saving text messages she sent to him. He recorded some of their conversations too and when police told Scott that Michelle was missing, Scott shared the recordings and text messages with them. Just three days before Michelle disappeared, Scott filed for a temporary restraining order against Giselle. He claimed she threatened him and his family. That same day, he alleged Giselle broke into his house and went to their daughter’s room.
Giselle was declared a person of interest in Michelle's case. Police believed that Michelle was dead.
Michael Le, Michelle's brother, and Krystine Dinh, Michelle's cousin
As police investigated the case, they gathered DNA evidence and cell phone records and had enough to charge Giselle with first degree murder even though Michelle was still a missing person. Police believed there was enough DNA evidence and other evidence to secure a conviction. They found DNA in the form of blood stains in Michelle's car and on Giselle's shoe and had obtained a security video that placed Giselle in the parking lot at the time of Michelle's disappearance.
Just a couple of weeks after Giselle was charged, Michelle's decomposed body was found in a remote canyon area between Pleasanton and Sunol.
It was the Prosecution's case that Giselle killed Michelle out of "jealousy, hatred and rage" because she blamed her for destroying her relationship with Scott Marasigan.
The Prosecutor said:
"Giselle was so enraged that she began to essentially hunt down Miss Le."
It was their case that Giselle: stalked Michelle to the Kaiser facility in Hayward, attacked her in the parking lot, threw her body into Michelle's car and drove her away from Hayward, ultimately out to the Pleasanton-Sunol Valley Road area, and ultimately, through sort of a makeshift grave, buried Michelle's body out there.
It was their case that Giselle had planned Michelle's murder for some time and the attack was premeditated and planned in a cold blooded and calculated manner. To prove this, they called Scott to give evidence and shared the recordings he made and Giselle's text messages to him with the Jury.
The recordings included Giselle accusing Scott of having an affair with Michelle. She told him that if Scott was not honest with her she would take his life and Michelle's. She said that they both deserved to die because of their lies.
In the months before Michelle disappeared, Giselle became increasingly irate. On one occasion, in February 2011, Giselle met Scott in a coffee shop. She told him she knew someone who had a big problem with Michelle. She told Scott that the person who had a problem with her was going to disfigure her. Scott did not want to engage in such a conversation and stood up from the table to leave. At that point, Giselle threw her coffee at him.
Later that day, Giselle sent a text message to Michelle:
"If you were really anybody's friend, mine or Scott's, you would just f**k off and leave my family alone, but all you are is the whore who had nothing better to do and followed me to SF. That's all you will ever be. The whore who slept with other people's men and brothers because no one wanted you. You aren't my friend. You are always just a parasite."
Giselle then sent a text message to both Scott and Michelle:
"You two really do deserve each other. I hope you get what you deserve. You are both pathetic. You with no dreams or goals and the other chasing after someone else's dreams because she has none of her own. You are both parasites."
The text messages did not stop there. Giselle continued to send abusive text messages the next day and for the rest of that month. She said that Scott was an idiot for falling for Michelle's act and warned him that Michelle should stop avoiding her calls "because this won't end unless she does."
Giselle told Scott that his "whore will get what she deserves too." She told him to put a bullet in his brain, to die and make the world a better place, that he and Michelle would pay for their mistakes. Giselle further threatened him in yet another text message which said that she was:
"busy implementing his demise."
Further text messages and threats were sent to Scott in March 2011. Giselle told him that Michelle had "dug her grave by being a home wrecker and a whore" and said that she "won't be an issue for much longer" and "now I choose to take the negative and obliterate you and your baggage toting whore from my family."
Scott recorded a conversation he had with Giselle later that month, on the 18th of March. She again accused him of seeing Michelle and repeatedly hit herself in the face with her keys. Scott tried to make her stop. She wouldn't so he called the police. Scott was arrested but the charges against him were dismissed.
The Court also heard that two days before Michelle disappeared, on the 25th of May, Giselle text Alan Ng. He was a friend from college and he also knew Michelle. She asked him for Michelle's address but he told her he didn't have it. Giselle called the nursing school at Merritt twice that day.
Marjorie Villanueva, a school administrator, told the Jury that she answered that call that day and the caller identified herself as Jamie. She said she was at the airport and that she was supposed to meet her friend Michelle. Jamie asked for Michelle's phone number but Marjorie refused to provide it. Jamie called back later and asked for Michelle's number again. Marjorie again refused to give it to her.
It was the Prosecution's case that Giselle stole an identification badge so that she could gain access into the nursing school. They told the Court that on the 26th of May, Giselle went to Merritt and spoke to Karin Kasper. Karin worked as an administrative assistant at the nursing school. Giselle told her she had an appointment with a student services counsel.
Karin testified that she left Giselle in her office while she went to look for the counselor. But she couldn't find the counselor. It was later discovered that an identification badge for a new faculty member that had been on Karin's desk was missing.
Surveillance footage from cameras at the Merritt campus showed that Giselle used that identification badge at 8.40am to gain access to a faculty break room. It was used again at 5.11pm to gain entry into the building and used at other entry points at the nursing school. Giselle called Kaiser Hayward and spoke to a nurse in the emergency department. Giselle identified herself as Michelle and said she was starting an internship on Friday. She wanted to know which department she would be placed in. The nurse found the call unusual as the school told students which department they would be in for the training program. She called a further two times that day to try to find out exactly where the students would be the next day.
On the Friday, the 27th of May, Giselle called Hayward Kaiser again to try to find out what time Michelle would be starting at that day.
That night, at 9pm, she sent a text message to a friend:
"how do you unlock an iPhone?"
The next day, Giselle went to an Apple store and asked them how to unlock it. An employee gave evidence that he reset it for her.
The Prosecution also relied on DNA evidence to prove their case.
Police found human blood on the third floor of the parking lot at the Kaiser Hayward. DNA analysis confirmed it was Michelle’s blood. Surveillance footage from the parking lot showed that a 2006 Honda CRV that matched Giselle’s car was on the third floor of the parking lot at 7.04pm. A few minutes later, a woman who matched Giselle’s height and weight was seen in the parking lot.Giselle's cell phone records also placed her in the parking lot that day. The surveillance footage showed Michelle walking across to the parking lot.
When Michelle's car was found the next day, the identification badge that was missing from Karin's office was found on the front passenger seat of the car. Hair found on the driver seat of Michelle's car matched Giselle's DNA. Her DNA was also found on the steering wheel and turn signal stem. Michelle's blood was found on the inside of the car-on the doors and on the carpet. Michelle's blood was also found on Giselle's white sneakers.
Giselle's computer revealed she had conducted around 300 Internet searches for the name "Michelle Le." Other searches included
"Is there a certain chemical that can induce heart attacks without leaving a trace";
"How to find someone who doesn't want to be found"
"How to follow someone without getting caught"
"How to induce a heart attack"
"Where to buy potassium chloride."
Michelle was identified by dental records, but a cause of death could not be determined. The Prosecution told the Jury that it was not clear how Michelle was killed. They said that the evidence showed Giselle attacked Michelle in the parking lot and then placed her into her own car. They said that it is clear from the blood in the car that Michelle was bleeding in the car.
It was the Defense's case that Giselle did in fact kill Michelle but she did not plan to do it . It was their case that Giselle snapped as a result of "extreme provocation and heat of passion."
They argued that Scott and Michelle had slept together which caused Giselle to snap. Her lawyer argued there was clear evidence that they slept together:
"What woman tells a man she's not intimate with that she's pregnant and is going to get an abortion?"
They argued that as Michelle had provoked Giselle with her actions, she should be found guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Scott gave evidence and said that he never had an intimate relationship with Michelle. They dated very briefly at one point but they never slept together and there was no affair.
The Jury found Giselle guilty of first degree murder. She was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of 25 years to life. At the sentencing hearing, Krystine Dinh, Michelle's cousin, told the Judge that Giselle could take "her legacy, not her light."
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