Two months after her disappearance and presumed murder, the case of missing nursing student remains the “No. 1 priority” for Hayward investigators, a police spokesperson said.
“I can tell you with all certainty this case is active and is progressing,” said Lt. Roger Keener during a rally held by her family and friends at Hayward’s Mt. Eden Park Wednesday night.
About 150 family members, friends and community members gathered at the park across the street from the hospital where the 26-year-old nursing student from San Mateo was last seen. The event marked exactly two months since her disappearance.
Le was last seen at about 7 p.m. on May 27 while attending clinical rotations at the Kaiser Medical Center in Hayward. Classmates said she stepped out to grab something from her car, which was parked in the garage next to the hospital, but she never returned. Her white Honda SUV was found less than a mile away in a residential area.
While authorities at first were tight-lipped about their investigation, Keener spoke at the rally to reassure the public of their commitment to finding Le.
Keener said that within a few hours of her disappearance, Hayward investigators were using “the best technology” to find her. Within 48 hours, police had searched Niles Canyon and other areas of interest, Keener said.
Authorities have yet to let up, he said. Neither have Le’s loved ones, even after Hayward police .
“We want people to know that we haven’t forgotten about Michelle, and we haven’t given up hope,” said Michael Le, Le’s brother.
He urged supporters to keep her story alive and to continue distributing fliers and spreading the word.
At the rally, friends passed out rubber bracelets that read “Mission: Michelle Le” on the outside. The inside of the bracelet reads: “Whatever it Takes.”
That was the theme of the night as family and friends marched from Mt. Eden Park to the Kaiser facility and back.
Le’s family promised to remain fiercely determined to bringing her home.
“We will do this for years if it brings her home,” said Krystine Dinh, Le’s cousin.
She said she couldn’t sleep the night before the rally.
“It’s a strange way of living, to see your family member’s face plastered all over the news,” Dinh said. “It’s really strange and surreal and awful to know someone you love is missing …. and to not even know where to begin to find them.”
Jason Manalang, a close friend of Le’s for seven years, said the community support makes it easier for him to cope with her absence.
“I’m not going to lie; it’s hard,” said Manalang, who printed the shirts and bracelets. “When you care about someone, you have to continue to fight. I’d go to hell and back to find her.”
“The family’s not giving up, so we have no excuse to give up either,” he added.
Le’s family thanked community members for their support. Over the past two months, the family has held a number of search parties, flier distribution days and fundraisers. Most of the events have had overwhelming turnouts, family members aid.
Many of the supporters have no relationship to Le, such as Brandon Hughes who, along with his two young daughters, attended Wednesday’s rally.
“Just brother to brother, seeing her brother cry on TV last night (Tuesday) made me come out. It kept pressing my heart,” Hughes said. “I got four sisters. My heart goes out to the family.”
Lynn Sugihara also didn’t know Le, but knows her family’s pain.
The body of Sugihara’s elderly aunt, Eiko Sugihara, a Richmond resident, was found burning in her car in Lafayette in December, 2009. The case remains unsolved, Sugihara said.
“You don’t know what it’s like until it happens to you,” Sugihara said.
Though he didn’t speak at Wednesday's rally, Le’s father, Son Le, said each day would be difficult without hope. He prays each night before bed, and thinks about his daughter every morning when he wakes up, he said.
Despite the progression of the case so far — no clues to Le’s whereabouts and undisclosed evidence leading investigators to believe she was murdered — Son Le is certain she’ll return home.
“We’re not in denial,” he said. “We strongly believe she’s alive. I feel like we’re close to finding her.”