The Tragic Kidnapping and Murder of Michelle Le
Her body was found dumped in a canyon 4 months later & her killer was a name that surprised no one
Michelle Le and Giselle Esteban were best friends in high school in San Diego. After graduation, they moved to San Francisco together for college. They were as close-knit as best friends could be; they shared everything and did everything together. But, by 2003, Giselle’s feelings for Michelle had turned from love to intense hate. What could have torn apart such a strong friendship? In this case, it was a man named Scott Marasigan.
Giselle met Scott at San Jose State University shortly after moving to San Francisco and they became close friends. In 2003, she introduced him to Michelle and the two began dating, but after only two or three weeks Scott and Michelle realized they were better off as friends and called it quits. Later that same year, Scott and Giselle began dating. Giselle quickly fell head over heels for Scott. The couple dated for the next two years and even got engaged, but celebrations didn’t last long. The relationship was consumed with constant fights, accusations and tears.
Giselle had seen a text on Scott’s phone from Michelle. In the text, she wrote that she was pregnant and was going to get an abortion. Giselle was furious. Both Michelle and Scott told Giselle he was not the father, she had only confided in him as a close friend. According to Scott, he and Michelle had never had a sexual relationship, even when they briefly dated. Giselle didn’t believe him; she was convinced Scott had slept with Michelle behind her back and was now pregnant with his child.
Giselle was irrationally jealous during the entirety of her relationship with Scott. She constantly accused Scott of having an affair with Michelle. She believed he had been infatuated with Michelle ever since their break up and no matter how many times Scott denied the affair, Giselle did not believe him. By early 2005, Scott decided enough was enough and he tried ending the relationship, but Giselle dropped a bomb: she was pregnant.
Scott decided to give their relationship one more shot. Giselle gave birth to their daughter in October. The couple remained together until Scott ended the relationship for good in 2008. He received full custody of their daughter in 2010.
The break-up fueled Giselle’s existing hatred for Michelle. She blamed Michelle for ruining her relationship with Scott. Giselle was convinced Michelle was trying to become her 5-year-old daughter’s ‘new mommy’ and wanted her to stay away from her family. Giselle called and texted Michelle, harassing her every chance she could get. She called her every demeaning name possible, from a homewrecker to a parasite.
After Michelle changed her phone number, Giselle sent threatening text messages to Scott. She wrote that Michelle had ‘dug her own grave’ and ‘wouldn’t be an issue for much longer.’ Giselle ordered Scott to cut off all contact with Michelle and said ‘punishment would be swift’ if he refused. Feeling threatened, Scott filed for a protective order against Giselle for both him and his daughter. He began recording their conversations and saved every text message she sent him. Three days after the protective order was approved, Michelle vanished.
On Friday, May 27, 2011, 26-year-old Michelle Le was attending clinical training at Kaiser Medical Center as part of the curriculum for nursing students at Samuel Merritt University. She was only months away from beginning her dream career as a nurse.
Michelle was stationed in the maternity ward under supervisor Laurie Rosa. At 6:45 pm, Michelle told a nurse she was going to get something out of her vehicle and would be right back, but she never returned. At 7 pm, Laurie was informed Michelle was gone and had not signed out as per policy. Laurie texted and called Michelle, but didn’t receive a response.
At 7:30 pm, a woman claiming to be Michelle called Kaiser and stated she had taken off after receiving news her father had suffered a heart attack and that due to the circumstances, she would not be returning.
At 9 pm, Laurie began to feel concerned for Michelle and decided to search for her in the underground parking lot with a security guard. After searching the entire parking lot, Laurie and the security guard decided to head back towards the hospital. When they reached the third floor (where Michelle’s vehicle was originally parked) they stopped and chatted for a bit. Suddenly, Michelle’s white Honda sped up the ramp and into the lot. Laurie assumed Michelle had returned from visiting her father.
She waved at her but rather than stopping, the white Honda backed up erratically, narrowly missing another vehicle, and sped off. Laurie couldn’t understand why Michelle wouldn’t stop to talk to her. Unless, of course, it wasn’t Michelle who was driving the car.
Michelle was reported missing the very same night. Her vehicle was found abandoned outside an apartment building only blocks away from Kaiser Medical Center the next morning at 9 am.
Michelle’s family and several of her friends texted and called her asking if she was okay. To some, ‘Michelle’ responded that she had a rough night and didn’t want to talk to anyone. To others, she wrote her phone battery was low and she couldn’t talk because she didn’t have a charger. She also responded “Who is this?” to her ex-boyfriend who claimed she knew his number by heart. It was obvious to Michelle’s loved ones that someone else had her phone.
Investigators quickly began interviewing several of Michelle’s friends. She was described as a kind and generous warm soul, the type of person who would always put others before herself. When asked if Michelle had any enemies, or if anyone would want to hurt her, several of her friends, including Scott, responded without a moment’s thought: Giselle Esteban.
Scott gave investigators all the recordings of his conversations with Giselle as well as the threatening text messages she had sent him. At this point, investigators believed they had their prime suspect. They also believed it was unlikely Michelle was still alive.
Investigators searched Michelle’s abandoned vehicle and found her blood on the inside of the doors as well as on the carpet. Giselle’s DNA was found on the steering wheel. Investigators also found a Kaiser nurse’s employee badge wedged in the front passenger seat. Surprisingly, it didn’t belong to Michelle or Giselle, it belonged to a woman named Elaine San Augustin. Confused, detectives turned to Kaiser’s surveillance footage.
The footage showed Giselle at Kaiser the day before Michelle disappeared. At 8 am, Giselle arrived at Kaiser and told the administrative assistant she was there for an appointment with student services counsel regarding the nursing program. Leaving Giselle alone in her office, the assistant went off to search for the counsellor. While she was gone, Giselle stole Elaine’s employee badge off her desk. She then used the badge to gain access to the nursing department several times throughout the day, searching for Michelle.
A nurse also reported that a woman claiming to be Michelle had made several unusual calls in the days before her disappearance asking about her schedule. All the calls were made from Michelle’s phone.
Next, detectives looked at surveillance footage from Kaiser on May 11, the day Michelle went missing. They were not surprised to see Giselle entering the parking lot at 7:04 pm. Shortly after, Michelle is seen wearing light-coloured scrubs walking towards her vehicle, which was out of camera view. Michelle was never seen or heard from again.
Phone records showed Giselle was at the Kaiser Medical Center several times between 4:12 pm and 8:55 pm that Friday night.
Investigators brought Giselle in for an interview. They told her Michelle was missing and asked her how she felt about it. Giselle did not attempt to hide her dislike for Michelle. She told investigators they had been best friends up until Michelle slept with her fiance, at which point, she broke off all contact with her and they hadn’t spoken since.
When asked about scratches on her hands, Giselle claimed she got them while at Chuck-E-Cheese with her daughter on Saturday. When asked where she was on Friday, the night Michelle disappeared, Giselle said she took a nap and then went to Kaiser Medical Center for an appointment because she was pregnant. She said she saw Michelle in the parking lot but never engaged with her.
When asked if she ever called Kaiser asking for Michelle’s schedule, Giselle said no. When detectives told her all the calls to and from Kaiser were recorded, Giselle suddenly said she had been suffering from memory problems as a result of her pregnancy and could not remember. When asked if she drove Michelle’s vehicle on Friday night, she again said she could not remember, despite her earlier claim that the pair hadn’t even spoken in years.
On May 29th, detectives went to Giselle’s home with a search warrant and found a pair of white sneakers. There was a red stain on the heel of the left shoe. It was sent in for DNA testing against a sample of Michelle’s blood and it was a match.
Giselle was arrested and charged with first-degree murder on September 7, 2011. Michelle’s remains were found ten days later in Niles Canyon by a group of volunteers. She was identified by her dental records. Her cause of death has never been determined.
Prosecutors concluded Giselle had spent months stalking Michelle and planning the attack. Phone records showed Giselle texted a friend asking for Michelle’s new phone number and address. When the friend said he didn’t have it, Giselle repeatedly called Merritt University as well as the Kaiser Medical Center and asked about Michelle’s schedule.
The prosecution argued Giselle attacked Michelle by her vehicle, threw her into the back of her own car and took off. After burying her body in a makeshift grave in Niles Canyon, Giselle came back to Kaiser to return Michelle’s car but was spooked by Laurie and took off again. She then dumped the car outside of an apartment complex near Kaiser. Michelle’s blood was found in the Kaiser parking lot where she had parked her vehicle, backing their theory that she was first attacked there and then kidnapped.
The defence did not argue whether or not Giselle had murdered Michelle, but they claimed Michelle had antagonized and provoked Giselle by engaging in an affair with Scott. They argued that the murder was a crime of passion and requested her charge be reduced to voluntary manslaughter.
The jury disagreed. 28-year-old Giselle Esteban was found guilty of first-degree murder. She was sentenced to 25 years to life.
Scott maintains that his affair with Michelle was always imaginary and only ever existed in Giselle’s mind.
Sources: Patch, Chilling Crimes, ‘Leagle’ Court Documents, Murderpedia.
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