Remains Found During Search for Missing Nursing Student

Decomposed remains discovered in remote woods during search for Michelle Le

Sept. 18, 2011— -- A volunteer in the search for missing California nursing student Michelle Le discovered a body in a remote, brushy area of Alameda County, but investigators said it could take weeks to determine whether they are the young woman.

The remains were so decomposed that investigators could not immediately say whether they were those of a male or female. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the remains were found in the same area where police believe the woman charged with Le's murder dumped her body.

Alameda County investigators have sealed off access to the scene, but say it could take weeks to identify the remains if they have to use DNA testing. Officials said they haven't found any articles of clothing or other evidence that ties the body discovered to Le.

"Today, one of the search party members did discover remains. Right now, that's all we know," said Lt. Roger Keener with the Hayward Police Department, according to ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco. "There is nothing that indicates gender with the remains. The body is decomposed."

Le, 26, went missing May 27, when she took a break from her nursing classes at a Hayward hospital. She told colleagues she was going to her car, but she never returned from the break and her locked Honda SUV was found later half a mile away.

A former high school friend of Le's, Giselle Esteban, 27, was arrested 11 days ago ago in connection with Le's disappearance. Investigators say surveillance video, cell phone records and DNA samples led to Esteban's arrest.

In June, Esteban told KGO that she "hates" Le because Le was friends with the father of Esteban's 5-year-old daughter. Esteban has denied having anything to do with Le's disappearance.

Even without Le's body, investigators said they have enough to charge Esteban with murdering the nursing student. Surveillance video shows her at the crime scene before and after Le went missing, traces of Le's blood were found inside Esteban's car and Le's DNA was found on one of Esteban's shoes, Hayward police said.

Cell phone records also show both women's phones "traveled on a similar path" from the hospital around Alameda County immediately after Le disappeared.

Esteban is due back in court Monday, after a judge postponed a plea hearing last week so she could get an attorney.