Police: Missing nursing student Michelle Le was murdered - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Police: Missing nursing student Michelle Le was murdered

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This undated file handout photo provided by the Hayward Police Department shows 26-year-old female nursing student Michelle Hoang Thi Le, who disappeared May 27 from a Hayward hospital during a break in a clinical lesson. This undated file handout photo provided by the Hayward Police Department shows 26-year-old female nursing student Michelle Hoang Thi Le, who disappeared May 27 from a Hayward hospital during a break in a clinical lesson.

HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) — Relatives of a Northern California nursing student who disappeared 11 days ago said Tuesday they are holding out hope for her safe return even though police believe the 26-year-old is dead.

Michelle Le's father said that he feels Hayward police have given up on finding his daughter alive without providing conclusive evidence to support their decision Monday to reclassify the case as a homicide.

"To us, if you call something murder case, you have to have a body," Son Le told reporters outside the police station.

Michelle Le was last seen May 27 leaving a Hayward hospital during a break from a clinical rotation. Her locked car was found several blocks away.

The decision to label the case a homicide was based on forensic evidence from Le's car, surveillance footage outside the hospital, cell phone records and evidence collected during search warrants, said Capt. Darryl McAllister.

He said that despite the new classification, there would be no reduction in the number of investigators assigned to the case.

Police have questioned more than 25 people and identified several persons of interest, but no arrests have been made.

Le's younger brother, Michael Le, said that family members have been "frustrated by the lack of information" they have received from investigators surrounding the homicide classification. He said the family was given no more details than the general public received.

McAllister said that earlier reports that the family has been critical of his department were understandable, but that investigators have a reason for holding some details back.

"I have the highest regard for this family," he told The Associated Press on Monday. "But there are some questions you just can't get answers to. We are well into this investigation and still have a lot of work to do."

McAllister did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the family's latest statements.

Also on Tuesday, Samuel Merritt University, where Le was participating in an accelerated bachelor's degree program, posted a message of remembrance on its website.

"For a brief moment in time, Michelle Le, a beautiful, kind-hearted, energetic, and compassionate young woman graced us with her presence," said the statement from Sharon Diaz, the Oakland university's president. "The pain we feel is indescribable."

Le's family is offering a $65,000 reward for information leading to her return. Relatives plan to keep distributing fliers in the neighborhood where Le went missing, Son Le said.

"There's still a lot more work that needs to be done," he said. "Please do not give up hope, because we know we still believe she is alive."

This is a story update. A previous story is below.


HAYWARD, Calif. (AP/ CBS 8) - Police say conclusive evidence in the case of a missing nursing student from San Diego, who vanished in the Bay Area, points to homicide.

Hayward police on Monday evening said forensic evidence from 26-year-old Michelle Le's car, video from the garage where she was last seen, and examination of her cell phone records have all led them to believe she was killed. They say her case is now officially a recovery effort.

Michelle Le's aunt Thuy Le, who raised Michelle here in San Diego was too upset to give a statement Monday night, but Thuy's fiance, Paul Eckelman, told CBS 8, "I'm just angry someone thinks they can do that to another human being." He says the homicide classification was a surprise, adding "It went from, they have nothing, to this big list of why it is now... went from a missing persons case to a homicide investigation."

Police Capt. Darryl McAllister says no suspects have been arrested, but detectives are questioning people of interest.

One of those people include a woman named Giselle Esteban who went to Mt. Carmel High School with Le here in San Diego. Hayward Police were at Giselle's home Monday night. It was the second time they had been there to question her and search her apartment.  She told a Bay Area news station she "openly hates Michelle" because Le allegedly stole her boyfriend years ago, but Giselle said she had nothing to do with the nursing student's disappearance.

Hayward Police say more than 25 people have been questioned in Le's disappearance so far.

Le was last seen May 27. The 26-year-old took a work break during a clinical rotation shift at a Hayward hospital and never returned.

The news that police believe she was murdered comes hours after the reward for information leading to Le's safe return increased to $65,000.

Le's family and friends gathered on June 3 for a vigil at the site where her car was found, about a half-mile from Kaiser Hospital.

On Sunday, Le's family expressed frustration with the pace of the Hayward police investigation and called for the FBI to take over. In a press release, Hayward Police said they are working closely with the FBI, which is providing investigative and forensic support. Alameda Co. Sheriff's Office is also assisting.

The family is expected to make a public statement Tuesday.

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