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Woman guilty in death of Bay Area nursing student

Jury convicts Giselle Esteban, 28, of first-degree murder in the slaying of her former friend, Michele Le, 26, in a hospital parking garage in 2011.

October 30, 2012|By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times
  • Giselle Esteban, shown in a file photo, was described by Alameda County Deputy Dist. Atty. Butch Ford as a “sociopath” who had planned the slaying of Michelle Le for months.
Giselle Esteban, shown in a file photo, was described by Alameda County… (Paul Sakuma, Associated…)

SAN FRANCISCO — An Alameda County jury Monday convicted a Union City woman of first-degree murder for killing her onetime friend in a hospital parking garage in May 2011, the result of years of jealousy over a man.

The attorney representing Giselle Esteban, 28, did not dispute that her client had killed 26-year-old nursing student Michelle Le of San Mateo.

But Andrea Auer maintained that Esteban had acted in the heat of passion and should be convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

Alameda County Deputy Dist. Atty. Butch Ford, however, argued that Esteban was a "sociopath" who had planned the slaying for months.

"I am very gratified with the jury's decision," Ford said in a statement. "The jury's considered evaluation of the evidence today led to a just verdict."

Le disappeared May 27, 2011, after she went to get something from her car in the parking lot of Hayward's Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, where she was working.

Her family recruited volunteers and conducted extensive searches for her in the East Bay hills.

Her remains were found in a brushy canyon about a mile from Kaiser nearly four months later — by the mother of 14-year-old San Diego murder victim Amber Dubois, who was volunteering in the effort.

The physical evidence against Esteban was overwhelming.

Security cameras in the hospital garage had shown her in the structure about the time Le disappeared. Police found traces of Le's DNA on one of Esteban's shoes, and cellphone records showed that the women's phones were located together in the hours after Le vanished.

Le's abandoned car, discovered about three blocks from the hospital, was stained with her blood and bore traces of her hair.

Esteban and Le had gone to the same San Diego County high school, and both moved to the Bay Area to attend college.

Esteban's years of mounting anger centered around Scott Marasigan, who testified during the trial that he'd dated Le for about a month in 2003. He remained close friends with her and began dating Esteban later that year.

The couple had a daughter, now 6 years old, but they split up and Marasigan was awarded custody. Through it all, Esteban was convinced that Marasigan and Le were having an affair and that Le was responsible for the breakup.

Esteban even told a television station after Le went missing that she "hated" Le, although she contended at the time that she had nothing to do with Le's disappearance.

Jurors heard evidence that suggested premeditation. Esteban told Marasigan in a recorded conversation six months before the killing that both he and Le deserved to die, according to coverage of the trial by the Oakland Tribune.

An analysis of Esteban's computer by the FBI found that she had made death threats against Le beginning in November 2010 and, a month before the killing, had searched the Internet for Le's home address and for ways to kill people without being caught.

lee.romney@latimes.com

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