Police in Hayward have classified the case of a San Diego woman missing in the Bay Area as a homicide.
The Hayward Police Department issued the following release Monday evening:
Michelle still has not been found, but based on compelling evidence we have recovered during the course of our investigation throughout the week, we are now officially classifying the case as a homicide. We realize this is the worst possible news for Michelle's family and friends, and for everyone involved in looking for her. Despite everyones hopes, our effort to find Michelle is officially an effort of recovery. Our investigators met with the family this evening to inform them of these latest developments.
"It's just a total different 180-degree turnaround," said Paul Eckelman, who said he considers Le as his own niece. Eckelman's longtime girlfriend, Le's aunt Thuy Le, raised Le when her mother passed away.
Family members said they can't understand how the investigation went from a missing person case to a homicide so quickly.
"[Thuy Le] wasn't sure what a homicide was and I said, 'That's murder.'
It was like, 'no way,'" said Eckelman.
Hayward police detectives said they believe the 26-year-old was killed in the Kaiser Hospital garage where her car was parked two weeks ago. They also believe Le's killer targeted her.
"[Some of the factors included] forensics examination of Michelle's car, the area of the parking structure where it was parked [and] information gleaned from multiple interviews, including those with friends, family and persons of interest," said Hayward police Capt. Darryl McAllister.
Since Le's body still has not been found, her family remains hopeful.
"Honestly, we can still say there's hope," said Eckelman.
No arrests have been made, but police have named Le's friend, Giselle Esteban, a person of interest. Esteban and Le went to high school together. She told KGO-TV that she and Le had a recent falling out over a man and that Le was the other woman.
Investigators are focusing recovery efforts for Le's body in remote parts of the East Bay area.
Family Wants FBI In Charge Of Missing Student Case
Amid frustration over the investigation, Le's family has reached out to local members of Congress.
In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday, the brother of missing nursing student Michelle Le said it was time for the FBI to take over the case.
"The best is to have her walk through that door
I just want her back now," said Michael Le.
According to police, on May 27, Michelle Le walked out of a nursing class at a hospital in Hayward and has not been seen since. Her locked sport utility vehicle was discovered a short distance away.
Le's family said the SUV could take weeks to process, and it took four days for Hayward police to search Le's home. Loved ones contend with some investigators going on vacation, police are understaffed and need more resources.
"Every hour that goes by is an hour lost. We are wary of that. We are focused on using the time we have and getting her back," said Le's cousin, Krystine Dinh.
10News learned Le's family has reached out to Rep. Brian Bilbray and Rep. Duncan D. Hunter. Le, who attended Mt. Carmel High School, has relatives who live in the congressman's districts.
"I'm hoping the congressmen can do whatever they can to get the FBI more involved in the case," said Michael Le.
Hayward police have maintained the FBI is involved in a support role and that the department has enough resources to do the job.
However, the family wants the FBI to take a lead role in the investigation.
Hunter's office issued the following statement regarding the Le case: "We are gathering information to determine if FBI intervention is needed, and if so, who should make the formal request."
A representative for Bilbray's office said they were "looking into the matter."
Le's family is also starting a petition drive calling on the FBI to have a greater role in the investigation.
On Monday, the reward for information leading to Le's safe return increased to $65,000.
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