June 1, 2011 -- A woman who was once friends with a missing California nursing student has been declared a "person of interest" in the case and been questioned by detectives, police said.
Michelle Le, 26, vanished on Friday on her way to the garage at Kaiser Hospital in Hayward in northern California. She is a student at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, where she was pursuing an accelerated bachelor's degree combining academic work with clinical training.
Hayward cops served a warrant over the weekend at the home of the former friend, whose name has not been released, and seized her computer and cellphone.
"We ultimately released her and she remains, as do a couple of others, as a person of interest," said Lt. Roger Keener of the Hayward Police Department.
Keener played down possible parallels between Le's disappearance and an unsolved case in Solano County last year, in which the body of nursing student Phuong Le, 24, was found in Napa County 12 days after she disappeared outside a bookstore in Fairfield, Calif.
Fairfield is about a half-hour's drive from Hayward.
He acknowledged that are a number ofsimilar elements in the two disappearances. Both women drove white Hondas, they had the same last name, similar physical appearance, and both were nursing students.
"We can't discount it in its entirety," Keener said. But he said that after talking to police in Fairfield, where Phuong Le disappeared, investigators felt there was a "slim chance" the two cases are related.
"You could look at it and go 'Wow," said Sgt. Randy Boggs of Fairfield police. But he added, "It looks like a series of coincidences and nothing more."
In both cases, according to ABC affiliate KGO, the women's personal items were undisturbed. Michelle Le's laptop was not taken, police said.
Police have interviewed 15 to 20 friends and family members, Keener said, and are laboriously reviewing surveillance footage from the parking garage. Le's locked Honda was found a few blocks away from the garage early Saturday. Calls to her cellphone have gone unanswered, and she has made no calls since early Saturday.
She had been planning to drive to Reno Friday night to visit friends, according to news reports.Her father has traveled from Vietnam to the Bay area and met with police Tuesday along with Michelle's brother, Michael, and her aunt, who lives in San Diego. Michelle's mother died about 10 years ago, police said. The family has funded a $20,000 reward for information leading to her safe return.
"To the family's credit, they are holding out hope," said Keener. "It is that hope that they display that helps us persevere as well."