The woman accused of killing Hayward nursing student Michelle Le was found guilty of first-degree murder Monday afternoon in Alameda County Superior Court.
Le’s former friend, Giselle Esteban, 28, will receive 25 years to life in prison, said prosecutor Butch Ford, deputy district attorney for Alameda County. Esteban will be formally sentenced on December 10 at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland.
“It was what was just,” Ford said a few hours after the verdict was read. “I’m just relieved and happy for the victim’s family.”
Monday’s verdict ends the month-long Oakland trial that delved deep into the relationship between Le, Esteban and their mutual friend Scott Marasigan. The jury reached a decision after deliberating for almost a week.
Le, 26, went missing in May, 2011, and her skeletal remains were found on the Pleasanton-Sunol border four months later. While the cause of her death is unknown, prosecutors argued that Esteban attacked the Samuel Merritt College nursing student in the parking lot of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward during a break in Le’s clinical lessons. Le’s blood was found on Esteban’s shoe and more blood and Le’s hair were found in Le’s 2010 Honda CRV, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors claim that Esteban was motivated by jealousy because she believed Le was romantically involved with Marasigan, the father of Esteban’s first child.
According to court testimony, Le and Marasigan briefly dated in 2003. Several months later, Marasigan began to see Esteban and in 2005, Esteban told Marasigan she was pregnant. Esteban gave birth to a baby girl later that year. Le and Marasigan never resumed romantic relations, Marasigan said during court proceedings in early October.
Defense attorney Andrea Auer argued in court that Esteban acted out of passion, with no prior intent of killing her high school classmate, and argued that her client be considered for the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Auer could not be reached for comment after Monday’s verdict.
During witness testimony earlier this month, the prosecution and defense presented the court with dozens of text messages dating back to March, 2010, that described the sometimes cordial, sometimes intimate and—toward the end—threatening tone that Esteban took with her former boyfriend.
“You two really do deserve each other,” Esteban wrote in a text message to Marasigan on February 17, 2011, referring to him and Le in messages that were read aloud during court proceedings in early October. “You really are pathetic. You are both parasites.”
Prosecutors also presented recorded conversations between Marasigan and Esteban, including one exchange in November, 2010, with Esteban saying, “You deserve to die for your lies, as does she,” according to a press release from the District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors also said in a press release after Monday’s verdict that Esteban stalked Le. Prosecutors had also previously argued that Esteban conducted numerous Internet searches for information possibly related to the murder, including how to induce heart attacks and how to break down locked doors, according to a report in The Argus, a newspaper that covers the Fremont area.
Monday’s verdict also closes a chapter for Le’s family, many of whom traveled from Le’s hometown of San Diego for the trial.
“We went through hell last year, the last two years,” said Le’s father, Son Le, a few hours after the verdict was read. “She’s at peace now, knowing that her murderer is behind bars for a long time. Justice is served.”