Everyone experiences jealousy at some point. Maybe you’re jealous of your neighbor’s new sports car or perhaps your sister just got married while you’re still single. While small spurts of jealousy are natural, obsessive jealousy can breed mistrust, doubt, and suspicion. This is exactly what happened in the horrific case of Michelle Hoang Thi Le.
On May 27, 2011, 26-year-old American nursing student Michelle Le was murdered in Hayward, California by 27-year-old Giselle Diwag Esteban. Once best friends, Giselle came to view Michelle as her rival due to her belief that Michelle had been sleeping with her ex-boyfriend, Scott Marasigan.
The murder of Michelle Le is a case built on unfounded allegations that ultimately led to the untimely death of a beautiful and educated young woman destined for great things.
A Bright Future
Michelle Le was born on October 12, 1984, in San Diego, California. She grew up in the Rancho Peñasquitos neighborhood with her younger brother, Michael.
In 2002, Michelle graduated from Mount Carmel High School and later attended San Jose State. She eventually transferred to San Francisco State University.
Michelle first met the woman who would ultimately become her murderer when she was in high school. Giselle and Michelle were classmates at Mount Carmel High School in San Diego. After that would live near one another in the San Francisco area.
In 2003, Giselle introduced Michelle to Scott Marasigan. Giselle had met Scott in 2002 when they were both freshmen at San Francisco State University. When Michelle transferred to San Francisco State, Giselle introduced the two. Scott would later testify to say that he and Michelle dated for just one month but never slept together. However, the two would remain friends after parting ways.
Following his and Michelle’s brief relationship, Scott began dating Giselle. Since the start of their rocky relationship, he and Giselle had frequent conversations about Scott’s bond with Michelle due to their close friendship.
On October 31, 2005, Giselle gave birth to the couple’s first baby, a daughter. However, the turmoil in the relationship remained and the couple broke up.
Daughter Custody Dispute
With custody of her daughter, Giselle decided to move to San Diego in 2008. However, in 2010 Scott was rewarded 80 percent custody and he moved their daughter back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Giselle followed to be closer to her daughter. She also revealed that due to her loneliness, she and Scott shared sexual relations on occasion.
Giselle and Scott continued their unconventional relationship in San Diego for many months. However, everything came to a screeching halt in late May 2011, just three days before Michelle’s disappearance. Scott filed for a restraining order against Giselle due to her increasingly erratic behavior. His family also feared that Giselle would try to take their daughter.
As their relationship continued to plummet, Giselle had to find someone to blame.
Instead of taking responsibility for the part that she played in the relationship’s demise, she chose to blame Michelle for ruining their relationship as she was still friends with Scott at the time. Giselle’s jealousy and rage would soon lead to a senseless murder.
On May 27, 2011, nursing student Michelle Le stepped out of her clinical trial shift at Kaiser Medical Center in San Francisco to get something out of her vehicle.
At around 7 p.m., approximately 15 minutes from the time Michelle left the hospital, the security guard noticed Michelle’s absence. Michelle had not signed out of her shift in the maternity ward as she was planning on returning in just a few minutes. Michelle’s teacher and the person in charge of the clinical trial, Laurie Rosa, looked for Michelle in the parking garage. The only thing she saw was Michelle’s white Honda CRV speeding out of the lot.
About 30 minutes later, a nurse in the emergency department received a phone call from a woman claiming to be Michelle. She asked the nurse to let Laurie know that she had to leave work early as she had a family emergency.
This would later be considered a key piece of evidence as Michelle worked in the maternity ward, not the emergency department.
It was unlike Michelle to simply disappear and not respond to texts or phone calls.
The next morning, the lead investigator on Michelle’s case, Hayward Police Inspector Frazer Ritchie, decided to call and text Michelle’s cellphone. Just minutes later, he received a text back from Michelle’s phone, saying that the battery was low. Scott also received a text saying she was busy “putting out fires.”
During the investigation, police spoke to Michelle’s social circle and soon discovered her strained relationship with her ex-best friend and classmate, Giselle Esteban. During questioning, Giselle told authorities that Michelle was her once best friend who slept with her than-fiancé, Scott Marasigan.
Evidence soon began piling up after Michelle disappeared from the Kaiser Medical Center parking garage. Michelle’s vehicle was found the morning after her disappearance around 9 a.m., parked on Ponderosa Court, approximately one-half mile from the medical center.
Over the next four months, her family would put up billboards in hopes of finding their daughter. They also offered a $65,000 reward for information about her whereabouts. During this time, there were also numerous volunteer search efforts, some of which were organized by the Klaas Kids Foundation.
Found Human Remains Belonging to Michelle
The eighth search effort for Michelle occurred on September 17, 2011, and uncovered decomposed human remains hidden in a remote canyon area. By September 19, the Alameda County coroner’s office would positively identify the remains to be those of Michelle Le.
The volunteer who found Michelle’s remains was Carrie McGonigle, the mother of Amber Du Bois, a 14-year-old girl who had gone missing just one year before in San Diego.
Police always suspected that Michelle had been killed by someone she knew and Giselle topped the list of suspects. A security camera showed footage of Giselle at the hospital parking structure both before and after Michelle had disappeared. Authorities would also search Giselle’s apartment and discover a pair of sneakers that contained Michelle’s blood.
Police would soon find other evidence that made Giselle the prime suspect, such as Giselle’s hair in Michelle’s car. Cell phone records also showed that both women’s cell phones were traveling a similar route at the time of the disappearance, and that route had ended where Michelle’s body was later discovered.
Arrest & Sentencing
Approximately six months before the murder, Scott would record a conversation between him and Giselle that would ultimately reveal her motive and state of mind.
An FBI computer expert would also testify during Giselle’s trial that she had run about 300 searches for Michelle’s name.
Giselle also made other suspicious internet searches, such as how to induce a heart attack without leaving a trace, how to break doors, locks, and deadbolts, how to follow someone without being caught, and highly toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and potassium chloride.
During the trial, Giselle’s attorney did not dispute that her client was responsible for Michelle’s death. She did; however, say that Giselle acted in the heart of passion and should be convicted only of voluntary manslaughter.
It took approximately one week for the jury of six men and six women to deliberate on the Giselle Esteban case. Michelle’s family sat in the front row and held hands as the jury entered the courtroom.
The judge also gave Giselle a warning that she would never be paroled if she continues to show no remorse for murdering her former friend and classmate, Michelle Le.
Gone But Not Forgotten
At the hearing, Michelle’s family members took the time to make several statements to Giselle and the rest of the courtroom. Giselle did not speak but only looked straight ahead.
Michelle’s brother, Michael Le, said that Giselle “took an innocent life because of an over-active imagination.” He also said, “I feel broken and utterly incomplete without Michelle, and I miss my sister so much.”
Michelle’s cousin, Kristine Dinh, also made a statement, saying that Michelle was “like a big sister” to her and described the nursing student as “joyful, carefree, light-hearted, and beautiful inside and out.” Kristine also told Giselle, “You took away her life but not her legacy.”