Investigators Continue Searching for Clues After Body Found During Search for Michelle Le

Investigators on Sunday continued looking for clues along Pleasanton Sunol Road in unincorporated Alameda County, where a body was found during a search for Michelle Le, a San Mateo woman police say was slain more than three months ago.

Pleasanton, Calif. — Alameda County crime teams on Sunday continued poking through thickets of tall dry brush south of Pleasanton, hunting for evidence where searchers found human remains on Saturday.

The wooded area sits along a creek flanked by older oak trees and is easily reached by car off Verona Road. It's a few miles north of where Highway 84 meets Interstate 680 and two miles south of Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, near the Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park.

The body was decomposed and the gender remains unknown at this point.

"It hasn't been there a very short time or a very long time," Alameda County Sheriff's spokesman J.D. Nelson said on Saturday.

He didn't know how long it would take to identify the body, which was removed from the area Saturday night, but said DNA testing is much faster now than it used to be.

He said investigators used a fairly new camera that takes 360-degree pictures of a scene, creating an incredibly detailed record.

According to Hayward police, the body was found around 10:30 a.m. during a search organized by Le's family but that an officer was present when it was first seen.

"We are 100 percent certain it is a crime scene," Nelson said. "It's a human body."

Nelson said the agencies would conduct a joint investigation until it is determined whether or not the body is Le's.

Le's family issued a statement Saturday night via their Facebook page that said they have no comment on any search findings at this time and that they plan to continue to search until she is found.

Le, 26, a San Mateo resident, was last seen May 27 at the Kaiser Hospital in Hayward, according to police. She was at the hospital taking a class as part of a nursing course she was enrolled in at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland.

She told many classmates she was planning to drive to Reno after class. She left class during a break and didn't return, according to police.

Police found her car parked a few blocks from the hospital the next day, with bloodstains that were later found to be from Le.

A former friend, was arrested Sept. 7 on suspicion of murder. Esteban was a suspect early in Le's disappearance. Police later revealed that a pair of athletic shoes taken in a May 29 search of her apartment contained Le's DNA.

Police said footage from security cameras at the Kaiser Permanente parking structure showed that Esteban, who is now seven months pregnant, was there around the time of Le's disappearance. Additionally, evidence found inside Le's car indicated that Esteban had been inside the vehicle.       

Police also said cellphone records from Le and Esteban show their phones traveled along the same path, leaving the area just after Le's disappearance. 

The  Saturday was the second in two days and one of an ongoing series of searches organized by Le's family. The area reportedly had been searched previously by Hayward police and by family members, based on clues from cell phone signals.

While it seems hard to imagine that a body left not far from a road could remain unnoticed for very long, Nelson pointed to the thick weeds and tall brush — standing higher than 6 feet in parts — and said if someone was walking by it could easily have been missed.

A resident of the only house in the immediate area said Sunday that her family hasn't been told anything by law enforcement and that they only know what they've read in the media. She said it was surprising to see the crime scene unit there Saturday night.

Elise Scarlott, who grew up in the home, said she used to go for walks along the rarely traveled road but hadn't done so in the past year.

"If it is Michelle Le then I'll be glad for her family," Scarlott said.

Patch will update this story when further details are available.

Patch Union City Editor Zoneil Maharaj and Bay City News contributed to this report.

Zoneil Maharaj September 20, 2011 at 05:40 AM
The body has been identified as Michelle Le. Here's the Patch report: http://patch.com/A-mlqS
Dublin Mom September 20, 2011 at 05:45 AM
Who is the father of the unborn child? This is one question that I did not get a definitive answer to. Since Giselle is not married, I expect that there will be a DNA ordered in two months when the baby is born. One thing is certain, Michelle will never be a mother. Her brother, Michael, will never be an uncle. God Bless this tormented family to find peace.
Dublin Mom September 20, 2011 at 06:06 AM
Thank you, Patch, you have truly gone the extra mile in reporting on this situation. I personally witnessed a Patch reporter going down into a creek to follow a search team. As far as I could tell, The Patch has been respectful and has given accurate and informative accounts of this situation. I hope that all media respect the privacy wishes of the family at this difficult time. They have been through Hell.
Marty September 20, 2011 at 06:17 AM
Breaking News Monday, September 19, 2011 Hayward police confirm body found is Michelle Le The Hayward Police Department has confirmed that the body found on Saturday in Niles Canyon is in fact that of missing nursing student Michelle Le. The cause of death is still unknown. >> DETAILS HERE
Versie September 21, 2011 at 01:22 AM
There are so many unanswered questions about this entire case. The only definitive answers will come when the case goes to trial, then and only then will we know how Michelle met her fate and what was Esteban's reasons and motives for murdering this lovely young lady. I dont have any problem with making the assumption that Esteban did in fact murder Michelle. Unless some other evidence comes out later that points to someone else, but I highly doubt it. My heart goes out to the entire Le family and all of Michelle's close friends. I know first hand what is feels like to lose a loved one unexpectedly, it is the worst feeling in the world. You have to wake up every morning knowing that you will never see them again. To all of the people in this forum: Please be careful and do not take life for granted.


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