OAKLAND, Calif. - Prosecutors said a jury convicted a woman of first-degree murder in the gruesome death of her former friend, 26-year-old nursing student Michelle Le.
An Alameda County jury returned its verdict Monday against 28-year-old Giselle Esteban, who attended Mount Carmel High School in Rancho Penasquitos with Le.
Le was reported missing on May 27, 2011. Her remains were found in a remote area of Alameda County nearly four months later, several miles from the hospital.
Prosecutors said Esteban, of Union City, attacked Le in the parking garage of the hospital where she was doing a clinical rotation. According to grand jury testimony, Esteban had grown increasingly enraged at a friendship between the 26-year-old Le and Scott Marasigan, who has a young daughter with Esteban.
Esteban had entered a not guilty plea to the murder charge.
Esteban told Bay Area TV station KGO in June 2011 that she hated Le because Le was friends with Marasigan. But Esteban denied having anything to do with Le's disappearance.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley stated, "I am pleased the perpetrator of this heinous, calculated crime has been brought to justice. I hope today's verdict will help the family and friends of Ms. Le to continue the long process towards healing following this tragic and senseless crime."
"I am very gratified with the jury's decision," stated Deputy District Attorney Butch Ford. "I want to acknowledge the Hayward Police Department for their dedication and persistence in investigating and solving this horrible murder. The jury's considered evaluation of the evidence today led to a just verdict."
The Le family released the following statement following Monday's decision:
Today, over a year since we have found our beautiful Michelle deceased, our family is finally relieved to hear that her killer is convicted of first degree murder.
There are many, many statements that we can make and say. Overall, though, we just want to give a warm and sincere thank you to everyone who has been supporting us through the most difficult year and a half of our lives. We'd like to acknowledge the KlaasKids Foundation, the Hayward Police Department, our legal team DA Butch Ford, Erin Osanna and Tai Nguyen, the Bay Area community, our friends and loved ones, and finally, the jurors, for not only helping us find Michelle but bring justice to her cold, violent and untimely death.
Michelle was a selfless, loving, joyful soul and she is always missed each and every day by her family, friends and all of those who knew her. Though we know we can never physically see, hug or be with Michelle again, we are beyond thankful that our justice system succeeded in giving us a large amount of solace. Grief, though it takes different forms as time goes on, is permanent, but at least the legal portion of the process is now over.
In her memory, our family and loved ones continue her legacy in ways big and small. We plan to stay involved in missing persons cases nationally through the KlaasKids Foundation, scholarships through Samuel Merritt University for aspiring nurses who have financial burden, and finally, but most importantly, keeping those we love as our first priority - always.
For those who wish to continue living Michelle's legacy, we ask that you please remember those faces of lost loved ones on the news and volunteer in any way you can. Or to simply be grateful for those you love, for we never know when they will be taken from us.
Thank you again.