Plea Hearing Postponed in Le Murder Case

Giselle Esteban, 27, is scheduled to appear in court again Sept. 28

The suspense continues as court proceedings in the case of missing nursing student Michelle Le have again been delayed.

, 27, a former friend of Le who is charged with her murder, was scheduled to enter a plea Monday morning. The proceeding was pushed back as Esteban had not yet met with an attorney.

Andrea Auer, a court-appointed attorney who made a special appearance with Esteban around 11 a.m. this morning in a Hayward courtroom, said she needed more time to study the case. This morning was the first time she spoke with her client, she said.

Esteban, a Union City resident, is scheduled to return to the Hayward Hall of Justice on Sept. 28.

Meanwhile, authorities are awaiting to see if there's been a breakthrough in the case after during a search for Le's body in thickets of tall shrubbery in a wooded area just south of Pleasanton Saturday morning.

The decomposed body has not yet been identified and the gender remains unknown. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and Hayward Police Department are conducting a joint investigation to determine whether or not the body is Le’s.

"[The body] 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 he said DNA testing is much quicker now than it used to be.

A and comprised of relatives, volunteers and Hayward police, was searching an area a few miles north of where Highway 84 meets Interstate 680 near Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park.

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

Le's family issued a statement over the weekend saying they aren't commenting on the search findings and they plan to continue to search until Le is found.

If the body is found to be Le's, it would eliminate the question of whether she is alive as no body or murder weapon has yet to be discovered.

"It's an important piece of the puzzle," said legal analyst Steven Clark.

Medical examiners will have to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death, and prosecutors will still have to prove that Esteban was responsible, Clark said.

"Until you have that information, you're not going to have a case," he said.

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 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 determined to be from Le.

Esteban, who has been a person of interest since Le’s disappearance, was . After her arrest, police 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, investigators said.

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

Patch East Bay Regional Editor Kari Hulac contributed to this report.


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