tv Dateline MSNBC January 30, 2022 11:00pm-1:00am PST
>> and that's another shared straight, that she kept their cause darkest hours, her mom's fighting spirit. >> we i guess she did have her parents fighting spirit to pull through all of that. so there you go, you got. that >> that's all for this edition of dateline. i'm craig melvin, thank you for watching. m craig melvin, thank she mainly comes and dreams. and it's so real, it feels like her. and she just gives me a hug. why did it have to happen to our family? >> why did it have to happen to michelle? why that they? >> a young nursing student disappears. she was still dressed in my hospital scrubs. something drew her out to her car. >> the cousin she grew up with. the brother she raised. desperate to find. are >> they were able to do what a lot of other families have never been able to do.
>> text messages, security monitors, surveillance videos. where their sons that she was trapped, reaching out for help? >> one of the things about, this is that didn't make sense. >> moment by moment -- >> dateline was there for every turn. >> look, there's blood wiped across. hear >> was she missing or murdered? was this the key? >> i will take her life and hers. >> a threat, a voice seething with hate and rage. >> you deserve to die for your lies. it's your last and final warning. >> what's happened to michelle? >> this case is not going to be over until we get her home. >> i'm lester holt, and this is dateline. they are watching us. they know where we are.
how we shop, how we play, what we do, we love. electronic eyes, the sticky picks of fingers that follow us almost everywhere. and the weird fractured personal diary they write. remains forever. of course, it's meaningless, most of us. meaningless, that is until it's not. until it terrifying. the san francisco bay, made 27, 2011. 6:55 pm, a young nurse and student, named michelle hoang thi le walked across her studio at the parking lot. she's not supposed to be here. for reasons known, and without permission, she has left her post at the hospital. here, she walks to a white honda crv, just out of camera inch. then, 7:17 pm, here is
michelle's honda leaving the garage. but why, why than just an hour or two before the end of her shift? good questions. questions about to indulge the whole family. >> why that day? couldn't just stepped up and gone to another campus that day and avoid this whole thing? why did it have to happen to our family? why didn't have to happen to michelle? >> but it did. much of it recorded as you will see by those electronic beeps and bites and pixels. just enough to make it a truly puzzling mystery. enough to not quite know would have been to michelle le. >> one of the things i was so angry about is that nothing made sense. nothing made sense. >> especially. this same night, 8:56 pm, nischelle's nursing instructor annoyed, baffled, blurred by her absence takes the security guard to the parking lot to look for. car 9:05 pm, michelle's car re-enters the garage two floors below. 9:06 pm, it arrives on the
third floor. the camera, nursing cameras sees it and ways frantically. the car suddenly stopped, backs up, races down the ramp out of the garage. but why? alarmed, the nursing instructor calls the police. and then exporting, 400 miles south of san diego, michelle's cousin christine was awakened via text from michelle's former boyfriend. any messages me and says, hey, just so you know we don't know where michele is. had you heard from her? try calling her. i said, i looked at his message and said -- oh my gosh what did michel do the same. and usually >> she's a fun loving person, right? >> yes, she's always up with their friends. getting lost sometimes. i honestly didn't think much of it at the time i wrote the message and i, like rolled over back in bed. >> michelle, after, all could look after herself. she had been looking at for christine for years she was
just 26 but seemed somehow older than that the eldest of a clown of 15 cousins who grew up together with very little except each other. and michelle was smart, studious, unattractive. the leader of this various pack strong loving center of the family, a mother figure to her younger brother, michael le. michael who was the next person to get the call from the ex-boyfriend. where was michelle? >> so i, go yeah, yeah ex-boyfriend just trying to get a hold of michelle. so, i did -- didn't pay any mind. but just in, case i wanted to see if she was okay so i checked on her facebook recently and she had plans to go to town hall with some friends so, i said those friends facebook messages just to make sure she was okay. >> michael went to work, didn't think much more about. it but then you got another call. this time, it was that nursing instructor >> and she was
trying to decompose, and she told me a story of how she had went out to the garage looking for marcia she said she saw what match the course description taking off suddenly, it wasn't a game anymore it was something -- >> that christine was calling michel's cell phone she didn't pick, up that's when i had this feeling where something might have been wrong. after she didn't pick up a few times. >> at 9:30 am, 12 hours after michele was reported missing, police found her car. it was parked outside this apartment building. just a few blocks from the hospital where michelle was last seen. aunt. fraser richie was the work police inspector -- >> the car was locked, it was secured. that's how we believe that michelle was somewhat around. here but we had no clue where to start looking. >> but they could see through the tinted windows. it looked. fine as if michele had probably left the car here herself.
all morning, a flurry of word phone calls went back and forth among michelle's friends and family. what should they do? >> it was just chaotic. but we weren't thinking the worst at the time. >> still, in san diego, christine, along with her aunts uncles begin packing for the eight hour drive north to san francisco he spay. brother michael was attending college at uc berkeley. he rushed over to nearby hayworth to join michelle's friends and fellow students who were already handing out missing posters outside the hospital parking garage. had anybody seen her? >> we all just wanted to find her. we didn't think that anything bad happened. her >> where was she? they hammered her iphone with more than 100 calls and texts. and her, in response, nothing. >> then, 12:45 pm, 15 hours after michele was last seen, finally a text from her phone. >> i am not missing, it read,
my phone has been acting crazy. it deleted everything. all these texts have killed my battery. >> michelle sent a flurry of reassuring texted friends and family. i'm fine, she wrote. just taking it easy. so that ex-boyfriend texted her back. his phone number he knew almost as well as her own. a response from michelle. who is this. oh. >> when we come back, did michelle really sent that text? >> coming up -- >> i had asked, is it possible she could just be out there, all stressed out. they said yes, it's possible. but soon, questions about michele's friends would leave police closer than they knew to the key to this case. when dateline continues. case case when ...surprise parties. aww, you guys. dupixent helps prevent asthma attacks... ...for 3!...
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michelle le vanished -- certainly, her iphone had didn't vanished one creepy techs after another popped up in the phones of her text, her brother, her cousin. i just needed some time without anyone. i had a bad night last night. i don't really want to talk to anyone right now. but then, after three hours of that, the techs stopped just as suddenly as they had begun. the last one said, i'm sick. so strange, so out of character. to michel's friendly and friends, it seemed obvious, someone had michelle's phone. someone who is not michele. >> the more that they -- it felt like it was becoming sinister. >> having this person text back as michelle was just extremely, extremely terrifying. >> how does it feel like losing a sister? >> it's hard to put into where a living nightmare, i think is the closest thing. >> strange, as chilling as
these messages were, it gave michele's friends and family some hope. to them, it seemed obvious they were communicating with someone who had abducted michelle. and so, their mission was not clear. michelle didn't just need to be found. michelle needed to be rescued. >> it's a time critical situation. at least in any way, every second that she's hurting, we have to find her. >> saturday afternoon, 18 hours after michel vanished, michael and a group of michel's friends met with inspector fraser rishi at the police department. >> we had about ten or 15 family members and classmates and friends at the police department. they were all talking about how responsible she was, how out of character this would've been for her to just get openly. >> did you try to call michelle or anything? >> did you get a response. >> yes. >> i sentimental job, this is detective richie, you need to get a hold of me right now. >> i got the response within
several minutes saying that my phone is dying, i need to find a charger, i'm having car trouble. >> the same sort of response received by michelle's friends and family. who had now decided, based on those weird text messages that michele had been kidnapped. but, as far as inspector reach was concerned, just about anything was possible. >> i kept an open mind. i didn't know whether michelle voluntarily went missing for whatever personal reasons she had or if this was a strange abduction or if this was an objection from somebody that she knew or she just left with the friend >> did anybody think that she would've just flipped out and, stressed out as they say, i just love >> i had asked. is it possible that she could just be out there, all stressed out? >> and they said, yes, it's possible. >> inspector richie also asked if she had any enemies. or problems with explored friends, for example >> the only problems that you seem to be having with anybody was coming from giselle esteban.
>> giselle esteban one of her friends from high school. but not just her friend, friend of a family gisele was a picture in the house, -- and then after high school, in 2000. to the both friends moved to san francisco to attend college. and that is when gisele fell in love got pregnant. moved in with her boyfriend, scott. and then broke up with him three years later. the trouble came when michele stayed friends with scott, with that boyfriend after the break up and that just didn't sit well with gisele. the, really, it wasn't such a big deal. still, just to cover all the basis, late saturday night, richie dropped in on gisele to ask which he knew. >> we're here about michelle le. >> who? >> oh god, what about her? >> she went missing last night
from her work. >> okay. >> in talking, to, her friends we understand that you guys had a ton to this relationship. she was my best friend who slept with my, then fiancée >> i started talking to her and started asking her about her relationship with michelle. if she could provide any information where she would -- >> gisele said she had no idea and besides, they weren't seeing each other these days. so, she wouldn't know. then, just due diligence that night, richie sent another team of detectives to speak to gisele's ex boyfriend, the father of a baby. who, they were interested to learn now had sole custody of the child. listening to him, talking to him, and the relationship with him and his daughter and his family, things like that. he didn't seem to be the person, the type of person that would. lie >> sunday, 48 hours after michelle appeared in that
ghostly video at the parking lot. her large extended family began arriving from san diego and leaving with the police. and that is when detectives began to understand, michelle a little. how can she was. and bright, self reliant. very much like this young woman, feng shui. also vietnamese american. also a twentysomething nursing student. also living in the san francisco area who, 13 months, later also disappeared. there is a lot of similarities obviously she's the same each category, say magnets to the, same profession. even the same, last name. was it a pattern development? >> coming up -- police located the possible connection between those student nurses. and a meeting between police and michel's family. in asian families, when you're younger, you're supposed to be
very respectful of the hierarchy in the family. and you can't just pause anybody around. but i was just livid. >> when dateline continues. livid >> when dateline continues such tree-mendous views. i'm at a moss for words. when a cough tries to steal dad's punchlines, he takes robitussin naturals powered by 100% drug-free ingredients.
vanished. from the shopping mall parking lot. her name? phuong le. police lieutenant greg caught the case, but couldn't find her. >> several weeks later, we got a call from a neighboring county. that county said that they had a body, out in the woods, that someone matched the description of our missing person. >> indeed, it was phuong le. that was by no means the end of the investigation. >> to this day, we are trying to identify who killed her. >> during the memorial day weekend in 2011, when detective -- heard the name about someone whose name was michelle le, was this a break in his case? >> this is almost the same, named the same circumstances, it was bizarre. >> michele's family, also hearing about phuong le. when they met with detectives for the first time, 48 hours after michele's disappearance, they asked the dreadful question. could michel's case be
connected to the phuong le murder? >> the community brought it up, and thought it might be linked. we brought that up with the hayward police. they said, yes, we looked into it, but we don't think there is a connection. >> there was a wash of relief. the detectives told the family they had found michel's car, that it was locked, appeared undamaged. to the family, that was good news. it meant, michelle must be alive, or held somewhere. although, during that sunday meeting, the police gave the impression they still had no idea what had happened to michelle. >> they asked us all questions, about her relationships, her friendships. they told us they were working on it. >> we would keep asking them, probing them, for more information. just they would throw up their hands, and say, sorry. >> your level of frustration must of been high? >> it was sky-high. >> the family now had the
impression that the police were taking the serious at all. >> they said, michelle as an adult, and we felt, if she's an adult, and she is not a child, maybe she wasn't being prioritized? >> what was it like leaving that meeting? >> it was chaos. that's probably the number one feeling. we didn't have a place to stay, we were hotel hopping. we were just waiting around, most of the time, staying in the hotel. you are blind. we had no idea where to go, or what to do. >> the family could not understand why the police were moving so slowly. and their minds, michel was held against her will. one week went by, saturday, june 4th, eight days after michelle's disappearance. her family, holding a vigil, near the place where her car was found. >> we wanted the fbi involved, and all of this, and they were just making a lot of noise. >> scott, the young man, the police had questioned a year earlier. janelle's old boyfriend, the
father of her child. the called back for important meeting, and they finally had a chance to search michel's car. the status of her case was changed. from a missing person, to homicide. and, the family felt blindsided. >> they say, i think you have to get comfortable with the fact that your sister is probably dead. we were horrified. >> just like that, the information door closed. the hayward police told the family, it was a murder investigation now, so, department policy, they could reveal nothing more. and, therefore, could not, or would not, to tell the family why they thought michele was dead. but, without hearing an explanation, or seeing any evidence, how could the family believe the police? now, simply, they would not accept what the cops had to say. >> it was horrible. we were very angry. because, okay, you want to make
a homicide, but you won't tell us why. >> richie understood the family anger, but as far as he was concerned, he had a murder investigation on his hands. that meant, the family needed to be in the dark. >> there are certain procedural things that we need close to, us that we cannot put out there. we need to maintain evidence. we need to maintain the custody of certain information. it is of evidentiary value of us, that if we don't have the suspect in custody, that the only people who do know about, it is a suspect, and us. >> in the absence of official information, the family, and at least this younger members, decided that the only option was massive publicity. an appeal to the public, for whatever help they can offer. but, that was the kids, and cousins. family elders were deeply reluctant to share their grief with strangers. >> they did not want her story out there, or publicized, like we had made it. >> why? >> it's private. such a fine line between, how much do you give away about your own family, and their
misfortune, to do good for michelle. in asian families, when you are younger, you are supposed to be very respectful of the hierarchy of the family. you aren't supposed to boss any one around. but, i was just livid. i was so angry. >> they know far more about survival than most people ever do. they were boat people, and had been forced to flee vietnam after the war. very nearly perished, and they're open boat, in the south china sea. then they spent months in a refugee camp, before being dropped in a land, whose language, and customs, they did not know. and, yet, before long, they had embraced it all. big family celebrations at christmas time, and easter, and birthdays. they went on all american vacations, like this one, to the california coast. that's little michelle and their glasses. >> here we are, at santa
barbara beach. we are having lots of fun. here is my brother. >> they succeeded in america by doing what they did since their days on the south china sea. they stuck together. and epic, very american tale of great, hope, and self reliance. lessons, absorb hole, by their children. >> if i was missing, and michelle was looking for me, she would tear heaven and earth. so, i had to fight for her. >> there was a new generation, the american born generation, that had finally convinced the family, it needed to go public. to put their story into the press, and on social media. >> until the hayward police department can offer, conclusive, and definite proof,
otherwise, we will continue to believe she is alive. michelle is still alive. she needs to be rescued. >> we will find you, and we will bring you home. >> two weeks to the day after michelle's disappearance, the family organized this vigil. making a public case, that michele was not at. but, instead, a kidnapping victim, in urgent need of rescue. >> we are just focusing on getting her home, and doing what we can. >> i truly believe, she is out there, and we will find her. >> if michelle was going to be rescued, the family decided, it would be up to them to do it. coming up. where is michelle? who would have taken her? and investigator, zeroing in. >> looking into human trafficking patterns -- >> human trafficking? >> yes. >> you thought that was a possibility? >> we did. >> this is someone who knew her, and knew where she would be. >> when dateline continues.
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what's happening, president biden calling for the release of -- who is taken hostage in afghanistan two years ago on monday. mr. biden said the taliban must release him before he can inspect in the aspiration for legitimacy. at the east coast, plunging into a deep freeze after one of the worst storms in four years after reaching saturday. tens of thousands remain without power. massachusetts are bordering the storm with one town getting more than 30 inches of snow. now, but to dateline. 30 inches of snow. what happened to michelle le, banished on the sunday evening from a wallet parking lot under the protective watch of 18 surveillance cameras. detectives with the hayward police department let a vote this footage again and again. were they missing something? >> what happened in those minutes after michelle walked out of camera rate. and before her car went missing out of the garage. it was infuriating.
it was one camera right above michele's car would reveal everything. in fact, that night the camera wasn't working. what happened in those missing minutes? the police remembered, while talking to the family. so the family presumed its own line of investigation. >> we are looking to human trafficking patterns. >> human trafficking patterns? >> yeah. >> you felt like that was a possibility? >> we did. >> that, was a dead. and then, 34 days into michel's disappearance, the le family contacted us to say that they were working with the private investigator. he promptly sat down with us to tell us what he learned. >> this had happened quickly. this was a part of the garage, people go from that garage all. night someone was lying await. they knew, at some, point she returned to her vehicle. it was a number of hours before shift was going to be over. and they were prepared to have
doctor at that time. >> did anybody know why she went to the cart? >> not that we know about this time. >> an unusual thing to do at this day? >> i think it was either a quick break or something through her up to her car that we still don't know. but she was still dressed in white hospital scrubs. it was evident she was going to come back because she left her belongings in the hospital. >> remember, the police found michelle's car about half a mile from the hospital park and locked in a residential area. they have not revealed whatever it is they have found inside. but -- they had found a thing or two about the car and how i got there >> and did anybody see the car right? >> there's a report of a witness who said that they heard conversation coming from the headlight. conversation coming from the car at about 4:00 in the morning. . >> conversation? >> conversation. >> which would mean that there's more than one person. the people saw the headlights shining and they believe it came from the general direction
from where michelle's car was found. >> multiple kidnappers. almost had to be it -- >> after you look at the circumstances and the totality of how this person was waiting for her and the fact that she was put into her vehicle, obviously quickly and driven out quickly, there may be a possibility of more than one person. >> and, he was almost sure not strangers. >> this was someone that michele had some type of contact. with that saw her, that knew her. the newer she parked her vehicle. knew what she drove. knew where she worked. knew where she'd be at work. >> so, it may be members of your family. or her friends. they already know who this is. i mean, they know the person who did it. not -- just not aware that they. no if they just look through what the relationships, where the answer might be in it somewhere. >> the answer i think in this case is not far off. >> the police had questioned michel's family, current and former boyfriend. but it didn't seem that they
were getting anywhere. [inaudible] that the investigation was in trouble. >> when you don't have information to what is going to lead you to a suspect, i think it's important that you start looking at viable alternatives. too often, these cases go cold for five, ten years. from what we have seen so far, i think those are a possibility. >> the le was akin from it because they were frustrated with police. not from a tragedy, they couldn't >> when we did is we put out information versus anyone who knew something or think that they knew what was involved the call was confidentially without contacting the police. and would provide that information to the right authorities and at the same, time protect these people. if they need protection. >> so listening tips to people who were afraid to call the cops. would his plan work? wait and see. >> coming up -- >> dateline is there when that
private tip line gets a dramatic call. >> what is discussing? what is he telling? you >> he sent this information to potential set where michelle maybe. >> will he lead them to michelle? when dateline continues. michelle michelle when excess stomach acid can cause heartburn. prilosec otc works differently by preventing excess acid production. prilosec otc. one pill in the morning blocks heartburn, all day and all night. let's get ready for jalapeñoooo popperrrrs! can you hand me some potato skins. theyyyy're loooaded! turns out, michael buffer speaks like that all the time. and it turns out the general is a quality insurance company that's been saving people money for nearly 60 years. and in this corner, coconuuuut shriiiiiimp!
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there is a tip from him in a, to claim to know where michelle could be found. >> who do you think is involved in michelle le disappearance? >> what is this guy saying? what can you tell you? >> he said he has information as to approves ten shull site where michelle may be. >> he made the trip to the jail, for a face to face interview. >> the information was that she had been abducted, and was held at a house in hayward. unfortunately, it turned out this information was related to another criminal act. it had nothing to do with michele's disappearance. >> back in hayward, the police may have been accomplishing something, but they were saying nothing, beyond their belief that michele was dead. as far as the family could tell, the police investigation seemed to get nowhere. now, the family's own private investigator seem lost in the weeds as well. hoping to shake loose a lead, they increase the amount of the reward money. from 20, 000, to 40, 000, to 65, 000, to $100,000.
all from private donations. much of, it out of the family's own pocket. so, every day was precious, said her brother michael. every day that passed, a missed opportunity to find her. >> she was always looking out for me. so, this was my time to do everything i could to look out for her. to make sure, what she was going through, she wouldn't have to go through one day longer. >> you must have had this sense, any day now, you will find, her and bring her back, and everything will be okay? >> every day, we were hoping today was the day. every day. >> it was obvious, as we talk to michael, the intensity of his devotion. for michelle. the reason for that? he told us a story about their mother. >> my mom was, pretty much, our superhero. she worked the long hours, and she was a kind, loving mother to us. she always told us stories.
>> stories about what? >> one that we always loved, it was one called the woman on the moon. it is a vietnamese love story about, how if you look hard enough, the shadows of the moon almost looked like a woman with long, flowing hair. and, at the same day of year, she would come down to look for the one she loved. but, ultimately, she was trapped on the moon, only to watch over him. >> folklore, the kind of reality that is like armor for a child. it protects, in a time of terror. michael was 11, when his mother learned she had breast cancer, but she did not tell him. she protected him from the worst of it, both he, and it's 14 of, systematize. so, when the cancer finally took her life -- >> it was a shock. she died december 1st, 1999. we had just seen her for thanksgiving, maybe not a week prior. >> alone, michael, and michelle,
were taken in by christine's family. >> she told me a story about, how after her mom passed away, she didn't know what to do it first until she saw michael in the garage, holding something of his moms, and crying. she told me, that was the time i knew it was time to be big sister, and be a mother figure. >> overcome that sense of loss, and say this boy? >> yes. she could tell. >> he made a commitment, between her and i, that she would look out for me. >> but not just michael. michelle, also, kept watch over christine. >> she was like my older sister. she dressed me, she tweezed my eyebrows, she taught me makeup. >> taught you about boys? >> exactly. all the time. she helped me write my first love letter. oh my gosh. when we were growing up, we
were so like, my family called me mini michelle. >> now, many michelle, michael, and the rest of the family, issued press releases, and did anything to keep michele's case in the public eye. >> i needed to work on something, all the time, that was her, every day, that was related to her, every day. >> did you feel like you are getting anywhere? >> it felt productive, but it still felt hopeless. hopeless in the sense where, you still know what's going on. >> after weeks of casting about, there were no closer to finding michel with this first chaotic weekend. and, it was sad, but perfectly understandable. the public interest began to wane. during this period of darkness, one of michel's uncles, and san diego, begged for help from this woman. carrie mechanical. >> michele's uncle asked, what do i do? and completely lost. >> why her? because carrie had been through
it all herself. two years earlier, she had to search for her murder daughter, amber dubois. now, carrie ran a search organization, in the memory of her daughter. she couldn't know, back then, the role she would play. the events she would set in motion. for now, it was who she knew. >> i put them in touch with mark, because it was up in northern california. they were all up in the same area. >> mark class, a rare man, with a rare skill. how to find the missing. >> coming up, a man who knows how it feels to lose a daughter, and had learned, from personal experience, how to lead the search. >> we need help from the police, and we finally said, that is where the cell towers take us. >> when dateline continues. >>
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the reward. the facebook campaign. the flyers. the detective paul kept michele's family busy and hopeful that had ultimately been unproductive. they were nowhere. and it was just at that point when mark class stepped into the light for the le family >> i met the family in the dingy motel on the side of the freeway in hayward california at about 11:00 in the morning. and they were all huddled inside this little room >> the le family class was like the calgary. >> we were all in our pajamas. we were shoveled, all together in our lifetimes. tried to end it press releases. trying to organize all the interviews. and, reading the news, trying to talk to the police. and i looked around and i said the first thing that you people need to do is get out of this room. >> dark and depressing. >> it was horrible. and they were so down frighten.
they had absolutely no idea of what to do or where to go. >> and he sat down and gave us a list of what to do to find our center. how to get volunteers. we had to position media and in this sort of light. he was giving us all sort of tips. >> it made an all sort of world difference. -- >> but what marcus didn't do was burden the lee family with his own story. didn't tell him about his own daughter, poly, kidnapped two decades ago. >> that was the worst time in my life it shattered me it shattered my heart. >> 12 year old poly class was snatched from her room in public california in the midst of a slumber party. police body was only discovered when her killer, arrested at a traffic stop, two months later show detectives where he buried her. >> do you still live with that awful week, now? all these years later. >> my work is my therapy.
my work is my therapy. >> and that work through the class gates foundation is to help people find their missing loved ones by providing family with the now proven professional methodical approach to their search effort. >> you have to basically start in the center and work your way out. following statistics that the vast majority of people that are missing are going to be found,, eight and a half mile radius of where they met missing. or b, within a five mile radius of where they went missing. >> boy, this is just the dissimilar work you do. >> it is not dismal. it's not dismal, it's hard work. it can be heartbreaking, it can be so sad but it's not dismal. it's really good work and it's important work. . and there's just not enough people doing it >> possibly, because it's worked at his barebones. hundreds of times since police, death marcus shared his
experience learned through his own parental grief that families just like michele's had drifted in shock. and the first order of business, said, mark repair the relationship with the police which would become very freight indeed. >> we needed help from the police, and they slowly started to let us know where they thought we should be looking. and when we pressed some questions, they -- why should we be looking there. they, said fine, because that is where the cell towers take us. >> i michelle le, it turns out, went on a journey on the eve of the 27, 2011. or at least herself wounded. and the two hours after michele abruptly left the center at the kaiser permanente medical center in east bay, the cell phone left its footprints through the streets of the east. and then it turned down to a tooling background and then a major freeway and then it's picked its way right back along the very same route back to the
parking lot. at the very moment, the nursing instructor saw missiles car drive into the parking lot, then rapidly reversed course, and speed away into the dark. a puzzle but getting that cell phone trail from the police was also a huge break said marc klaas. who was not deeply involved in the search for. michelle >> it enabled us then to hone in on what we needed to do and why we needed to do. it it was to prepare viable search locations for search teams. >> but, the area was vast. much of it rugged, rural. the search for michelle would be tough, labor intensive work. just the sort of thing marc klaas's organization you want to do. >> when we saw this emotion it when we knew, wow, this guy in this foundation has really got it together. we would've never thought of that on our own. >> klaas even flows his directives of search operations
who was one of the first people to look for poly. >> we -- are going to deal with some [inaudible] terrains today. lots of canyons, waters, sensitive or ravines -- >> this was day 49 since michelle disappeared. and once again, her san diego relatives loaded in the car around midnight and drove eight hours north the san francisco bay. dateline was there, watching. as they gathered for a morning briefing to prepare them for the long day of searching ahead. >> if you take nothing else away from this presentation, take this portion right here, okay? every single search that we put you on today, tomorrow, we consider a potential crime scene. >> the police suggested a zone to be searched. that's about all the information they provided. >> we don't know exactly why but they say based on all the evidence and their timelines, they believe that something might have happened in this air. >> the area, a narrow canyon
east of the san francisco bay. as the search party made its way up the canyon, they tied off, here and, they're pink ribbons. >> we've got a system of tape markings that we use win, we're reporting to the investigators -- everything we're doing here is to support the police effort in bringing back michele. >> a complication. this area is a heave in for the homeless. it is also notorious dumping ground for murder victims. here, one of the search is found in the -- and inside, a sleeping bag. >> ian. he wants to check out -- it looks like a sleeping bag. >> they want to pull it? >> the bag was empty. but deeper inside the encampment, something else was uncovered. a large bone. this creek canyon soon became apparent that it was well traveled by both creatures, big and small. >> some animals, some mammals.
>> but there was another bone -- searchers had already passed by when our producer noticed it like there. and yet -- >> i'm not sure, i'll probably have income ticket out. it does look like a thighbone. like a joint. in, come take a look at this for me. there's a lot of bones around, which is kind of interesting. >> it's just a really big ball. looking at a bone from a large mammal. >> we'll do a more thorough search around here just in case, and then we'll get somebody to get the gear. >> do you think you could scamper up to that little piece of rebar that's up there, and tie ribbon up to. >> the bone was examined, sent to a lab, and, yes it was from the lake of a large mumble. in this case, a human.
>> coming -- up while michele's friends and family are searching, police are making discoveries of their own. is one tiny clue a key to the mystery? >> we found a identification card from the nursing school. but it was not michele's. >> when dateline continues. >> when ♪ it's a new dawn, it's a new day,... ♪ ...it's time to make a stand. start a new day with trelegy. ♪...and i'm feelin' good. ♪ no once-daily copd medicine... has the power to treat copd in as many ways as trelegy. with three medicines in one inhaler, trelegy helps people breathe easier and improves lung function. it also helps prevent future flare-ups. trelegy won't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden breathing problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it. do not take trelegy more than prescribed. trelegy may increase your risk of thrush, pneumonia,
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[music playing] look for genexa, it's been months now since it's been months now since michelle le vanished michelle le vanished from a hospital parking garage. her family remains hopeful that she's still alive. police have been tracking michel's electronic trail, video, audio, text messages, cell phone pings. so many clues that seem to have picked up signs of michelle. but they've also picked up signs of someone else. here again, keith morrison. >> 49 days after michelle disappeared, we stumbled over a human bone in the same area
were michele's cell phone had brief picked off a nearby cell phone tower >> -- >> but as the search is scoured the area, they understood it couldn't be her. the bits of clothing weren't right and the bone was bleached by the sun. must of been there a long time. and when they look closely -- >> that is a six foot, something it's not a five foot, five female >> appalling. some other poor so wound up here. but relief to it wasn't russia. so the search in the mystery war on for days and then four weeks. and by the middle of august, it all looked to be losing steam. on a typical san francisco afternoon, as the fall wrote in. christina and michael brought us up today on their efforts to find michelle. >> how long has it been now? >> 27, it's been over two
months. it's been about 72 days. >> how are you doing, the two of you, with all of this? i mean, how are you holding up? >> it's just weird. just trying to keep the word out. trying to stay positive. >> right. >> trying to stay positive is the hardest. >> -- getting in bed and thinking, my gosh i think, i hope michelle's in bed. >> i mean you clearly have decided that she still alive. >> it's not over, and it's not over until we get home. >> so that very evening, they hosted a fund-raiser at a nearby restaurant. and a few days later, the 80 50 that michele was disappeared, the san diego family, again, piled into their cards just after midnight and made the long drive up the coast to launch the eight search. time had faded, the photos tape to the car. the creek searched desperately far from where our body might be dumped, or a woman might be
reasonably be held captive but still -- >> herself homeless putting their so, they tracked herself and ended up after she disappeared. and it's all around this area. such a huge area. >> it was 100 degrees in the days of summer. and it seemed to have impacted the turnout. as the number of volunteers dwindled. suddenly, the search later, called in a discovery. some female clothing, partially buried in the sand. >> what do you have? >> i'm down by the quake. there is women underwear by the tree. almost like, white pink, white >> as it turns, out another false lead. so they pack up. another fruitless day and a case con cold. or so it seemed so michael and christine. but, what they did not know was that during all those weeks and months in which the family had been searching for a living woman, the police murder
investigation have been very active indeed. and now, in the last days of august, inspector frazier ritchie was closing in on a very hot target. but to understand how he got there, we need to go back almost to the beginning. it was minutes before midnight. may 20th, 2000, 11:29 hours before michelle lee disappeared. richie had gone to pay midnight visit to michelle's old high school friend, giselle diwag esteban. >> how long has she been missing? >> since yesterday. >> and have you guys tried calling her? >> i have no idea how to help you at this point. >> since one? >> i'm, almost a week now. to tell you to stay away from my daughter. >> so, clearly there was some animosity between gisele and michelle. so, inspector region's partner brought gisele downtown to the police station for a more in-depth conversation.
>> i understand at -- at one point, you and michelle were close friends. is that right? >> i considered her my sister. >> and then -- would have been? >> she made a mistake. scott made a mistake. >> and then, was that when you are with scott or had you guys broken up? >> no, we were still together, they made the mistake twice. >> and then drizzle told the strange little story. she was pregnant, remember, with their second child. and said she went to the kaiser permanente medical center for a premade will checkup just hours before michele disappeared. she said she spotted her old friend at a distance. >> were you surprised to see michelle there? >> yes. >> how did it make you feel when you saw her? >> at first, surprised and then annoyed and then i thought, okay. keep your blood pressure down.
otherwise you're gonna lose this baby. >> strong feelings. but, gisele esteban was not so strong herself. tiny, pregnant. hardly not capable of overpowering michelle le let alone finding a way of disposing of her body. so the center home. and later the afternoon, finally got a look inside of michelle's car. as we did, much later, when the detective showed it to us. nothing had changed. nothing was touched. here, the morbid sense we were somehow violating a set and very personal space. this is what richie found, a crime scene. >> once we got the car open, you can see that there is blood wiped across here and the plastic, a little bit on the floor mats. and then, as you can see there is more droplets. blood dropping down in a downward pattern. >> police also saw some blood
smeared were mitchell's car had been parked. were you able to make a judgment about what it happened when she got to a car? >> if she was attacked, most likely here because from the looks that it looked like she got placed in the backseat. there was a bloody confrontation here and there is more blood back there. but you can see, hear, it's been moved around a bit. it's a little bit smeared. up and there's more than one location. >> clearly, a very violent a physical assault. who could've done this? a fresh look at the surveillance tapes may offer a clue. watch what michelle does as she walks to a car park to the far right hand side of the lot. michelle makes a wide sweeping turn to the left, away from the car. then walks back to the right. these to consider it appears she stops. would have been's? did she see somebody she knew. or somebody she didn't want to see. richie felt he may have
answered that question when he found on the passenger seat of michel's car, a little piece that would end up fitting into a very large puzzle. >> we found a identification card from the samuel merritt university nursing school. the one that michele attended. but there was no reason for it to be there. >> the name and face were visible right on the. car so richie called the school and was told -- >> oh, that's our new instructor that starting in a week. and then i could hear in the back of the phone, her i.d. cards gone. it's missing from my desk. >> the card had been stolen but by whom? >> here's the things about these identity cards. they are actually key cards. this is mine at nbc here. and whenever i'm in the headquarters voting -- i use them to swipe the key card on that little box there, it makes an electronic recording of the use of the cart at that moment in time and
at this place. and then, of course, i'm being watched by a security camera at the same time. in fact, you can't go anywhere in this building without being seen by security cameras. the security team at the nursing school did the same thing. they just look for the computer record of the key card being used. and they pulled of the security video from that moment in the place. and viola, there was their thief. >> so, i have them sent me the still photographs. i want i looked at it, i immediately identified it it was gisele esteban. the picture was dated, may 20, 61 day before michele disappeared. so, what else did she do that they? >> richie got a subpoena for all the hospital security cameras. when he saw on the video was those changing disturbing and moved georgia esteban at the top of the list of persons of interest. >> coming up --
the strange video trail of gisele esteban the day before michele disappeared. >> it shows just a walking around with a lab coat on and pretending to be an instructor. >> weird. >> yeah. >> was she up to? when dateline continues. up to whenamwork... long walks.... that's how you du more, with dupixent, which helps prevent asthma attacks. dupixent is not for sudden breathing problems. it's an add-on-treatment for specific types of moderate-to-severe asthma that can improve lung function for better breathing in as little as two weeks. and can reduce, or even eliminate, oral steroids. and here's something important. dupixent can cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. get help right away if you have rash, shortness of breath, chest pain,
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keith morrison: what you're watching is far better than any eyewitness-- what you're seeing better than any eyewitness. what you're seeing is in the exact record of a strange moment in time. this is gisele esteban at we michelle le nursing school. the day before le vanished. why she was here, was a mystery. but what she did -- that, richie piece together from her electronic trail. which picked her up in the morning at the school, posing as a prospective student. while there, she stole an instructor ski card. then, appeared to test whether woodwork by entering this break room. >> and then at 5:30 in the
evening, when the campus was closed, she gained access through the back door using that electronic -- >> same swipe card. >> yes, exactly. throughout the hallways, there are cameras. and it shows just a walking around with the cameras, her glasses, up and she's going around turning on computers >> weird. >> yeah. >> gisele can also be walking around with the class roster. and you know it's a roster because you could see photographs. so you can see that it's a class roster and it looks like she's walking around as if she's pretending to be a structure or something like that. she's in that room for an hour and a half or so and then she leaves. >> all of this, the night before, michelle le disappeared. what was gisele doing? >> -- on the morning after gisele disappeared gisele esteban one with her daughter to an apple
store and sure enough, there she was, on the store security camera that is heard there at the top left of your screen, having one of the employees unlock an iphone >> she told the apple employee that her daughter had put a code into the phone and locked scott marasigan it once. jan lofted, the phone started bringing and. ringing >> and just at the very moment, as cell phone records show, michele lays iphone begin picking on the cell phone tower not far from the apple store. now, there's a matter of following the signal. which led to this chuck e. cheese restaurant. a few miles away. where the phone turned up again. >> gisele was seen on video showing a white iphone. >> remember, this is the day after michelle's disappearance. when her friends and family were frantically calling him texting her. and look at this, surveillance footage, looks like gisele is sending out text messages.
and at that moment, as record, show michele's iphone was pinging off a nearby cell phone tower. to ritchie it seemed quite clear. giselle esteban was the one using michel's phone to send those creepy text messages toward friends and family and to him. and just melted all this while on a shopping trip with their daughter. >> and she's on the phone. roughly the same time that she's getting text messages from the classmates and family members and things like that. and then, i sent her a second text message at, roughly the 15 in the afternoon saying that this is not a joke, this is the police department you need to contact me right now that was the last contact that is when her phone went off. >> yes, but the evidence was mounting. so ritchie stepped up the surveillance of gisele. >> we placed a truck on her car. >> why? >> to see if she would take us to a location that michelle may
possibly be. >> well that didn't happen. not to say that her behavior wasn't suspicion. do you remember the visual the -- help a week after her disappearance? the one attended by the export from scott. it turned out, gisele was there to, sort of. the tracking device showed gisele circling the block as michele's family pleaded for help. and later, it showed her driving pass scott's house. why? ritchie was all but sure now that jason had something to do with michele's disappearance. the question now was, did she have some help? >> it was something that we have to look at. >> if so, who? >> yes. dive into her life. her friends. who can we talk to that nose gisele? >> ritchie consult did a alameda county da. busch ford some of my colleagues the response was, well who help to do. it because she's a, woman she's
pregnant. in order to do this, she had to have help. >> prosecutors had a hard time believing that esteban was physically capable of killing michelle le all by herself. >> we encourage them to make sure they eliminated any possible suspects just just, the father of gisele's child. >> that would be scott, the ex-boyfriend which is referring to. so, everybody's antenna went up. in late july of 2011, 63 days after michele's disappearance, as the le family searches the hills, ritchie got a very strange phone call from scott. who was sounding out of breath. >> sad to believe that he thinks he had found michel's phone. >> i asked him, where do you find michele's phone? >> he said, in the back of my car. >> coming up -- at first police doubt scott story. >> did we miss something, is he had the other part in this? >> or, was he gisele's next
victim? >> did you ever have any concern about scott safety? >> yes, and we advised scott that you need to be concerned for your safety as well. >> you deserve to die for your lies, and does she, this is your last -- >> week when dateline continues. >> week when dateline continues. opdivo plus yervoy is for adults newly diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer that has spread, tests positive for pd-l1, and does not have an abnormal egfr or alk gene. helps your immune system launch a response that fights cancer in two different ways. opdivo plus yervoy equals a chance for more time together. more family time. more time to remember. opdivo and yervoy can cause your immune system to harm healthy parts of your body during and after treatment. these problems can be severe and lead to death. see your doctor right away if you have a cough; chest pain; shortness of breath; irregular heartbeat; diarrhea; constipation; severe stomach pain, nausea or vomiting; dizziness;
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video, but the prime lead is video, but the prime lead is just saw esteban prime lead isgm we have an able bodied young lady who just appears from a public place. so automatically our minds went to was there more than one person involved? >> so, when richie got a call from gazelles ex-boyfriend claiming to have found michel's iphone, he was worried. >> i was very concerned that, how do we miss something. is he the other part of this? why is he telling us this? if he is another part of, this wisely fighting this and telling us about the evidence. and that was the key question. why would scott admit to having incriminating evidence. was he trying to outsmart the cops by pretending to be helpful? tua found michele's iphone when he had it all along?
or was he afraid, afraid somebody was trying to set him up? which might have been the reason why, scott share this document with detectives. this is a temporary restraining order against gisele esteban. inside declaration, both scott and his mother told how their family was awakened early one morning by scots carla. scott went to investigate. >> i want result, front he hears his mother screaming. he goes inside gisele is inside of his house, he is inside of his room tempering with this computer. >> some familiar? it was the same thing esteban was doing at the nursing school. >> and one was this before the murder? >> for days. >> but there was something else, a piece of evidence you have to hear to believe. scott told the detectives that four months before michele's disappearance, gisele rank and threatened him. verbal alarm so alarming that he recorded someone's iphone just in case something bad ever happened.
this one, in scott's car. their small arthur sitting in the backseat, listening. you listen closely. you're about to hear the real giselle esteban. >> i asked you if we could just be honest about michelle, cause she's the only issue that i have a hard time dealing. with >> that's not what you said it. all >> starting for now, we are going to be honest about michelle. do you understand? what's your sleep with, or whether you share food with their, whether you talk with. there you will be honest with me. look at me. you will be honest with me regarding her. otherwise i will take your life and hers. and you can take that to the grave with the. >> why? >> why? because you lied about are so many times it's hard to believe that you didn't sleep with her and knock her up. you deserve to die for your lies, as should she. and you will. if you do it again, this is your last and final warning. >> why? >> do you understand me? it's your last and final
warning. >> ritchie listen to gisele's tone from [inaudible] to threatening. this was far from the subdued woman he met back in may. >> it was clear that she was a violent woman. we advise not that, if it was just so you have to be concerned for your safety as well and he might well be a. target >> esteban was cleared the recording and fixated on her old friend was convinced that michele had somehow broken up her relationship with. scott and, yet as richie took pains to discover -- >> michelle and scott were nothing more than just friends. she had a boyfriend, scott was just one of the many friends that she had. the only person in this world that seem to think that there was more to it was just up. >> prosecutor butch ford heard the audio to. and with the 1500 pages of text an email scott gay police. >> for the better part of six
years she had an obsession with michelle. her text messages were filled with hatred towards michel at every step but the way. and then, towards the last four months or so, they were filled with hatred towards scott. wishing him -- wishing his death. they were just filled with hate towards the two of them with blame towards michel for ruining her relationship and essentially breaking her family. >> do you think there's any truth that at all? >> only from the standpoint that gisele believed it was michele's fault. so, in terms of responding to that question, the answer has to be yes. there's truth to it. but from her perspective. because she had to blame somebody. >> this is a very disturbed individual. >> yes, there's no question about that. from my perspective, when we're dealing with in particular murders my position is that they are all sort of screwed up. because a normal person doesn't react that way. i mean, we have to believe that
right? a normal person does not react that way. so at some level, anybody who commits a murder there is something that is loose in their head. there has to be. >> butch ford, may know more than the most human parameter -- he raised more that it siblings -- worked his own way through law school. and, now as a prosecutor, six out sound advice from someone who has seen it all. his own grandmother. >> i have dinner every wednesday on my grandmother's house. >> the first female african american judge appointed in alameda county county. >> i've never had a case that i have never spoken to her about. and run ideas by her, closing arguments, things like that. i always run it by her. >> but this case was special. ford's grandmother was struck by the devotion to michelle. but their determination to find answers. but, it was clear that there was still too many questions to take this case to court.
>> the theory was that gisele had done something to bring about her devices. this was a question of what's and how we prove it. >> in fact, without a body, how could they prove there was a murder at all? >> coming up -- in a strange twist of fate, the mother of amber dubois, joins another surge along with their new. dog she's barking, she jumped up on me, and picks up again. and i followed her and i noticed, well, sticking out of the ground. a dramatic discovery, when dateline continues. collagen peptide new vitamin c and the iconic red jar can't top this skin shop now at olay.com dateline continues ♪ ♪ with aisles of ways to refresh and restyle. for whatever style you're feeling. at prices you're really feelin.
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happened. who is the priest who called police, and wound up talking to the inspector frazier richie and told him his story about an encounter with a young woman who came to him seeking solace of some kind. >> it was actually outside of an office in a patio area. he asked her several times, do you want to go into confessional? she said no. so that's how he was able to talk to us about it. and he said that she was we are in a medical type scrubs, same physical build, same characteristics of gisele. and she was asking for forgiveness for something she had not yet done. >> she asked for forgiveness for us since she had not committed? >> that's the interpretation of the priest. roughly 3:00 in the afternoon. the day that michele went missing. >> reporter: richie was convinced that giselle esteban killed michelle. a so is the prosecutor. but they did not know how she did it. or when she did or where she
tip. or, more importantly, what you did with the body. >> if you don't have a body, it makes the case more difficult. >> reporter: so rich and the other investigators with the hayward pd continued the busy work of doing the case without a body. they ran fingerprints, sent dna for testing, interviewed witnesses, all quietly, out of sight of the family and press. they tested a strand of hair founded michelle's car. it turned out to be that of giselle. some of her dna was on the turn signal as well. but since the two knew each other, that was not enough evidence to make an arrest. so they checked the cell phone record for giselle and found that her phone, like michele, left a trail in the hours after michel vanished. what do you know? >> in the locations that michele's phone went, chisels phone went also. >> as if they were traveling? the eavesdropping electronics we're closing in. here was surveillance video showing giselle trying to
access nursing school computers the night before michelle's appearance. and here, the scene at the apple store the day after michelle vanished. esteban getting michele's iphone unlocked and then using it at the chuck e. cheese. but still, it was not enough. until the lab results finally came back from evidence seized that very first night. specifically from giselle's shoes. those tests uncovered a trace amount of blood, blood that belonged to michelle. only one explanation for that. and so on december 7th, 2001, 104 days after the disappearance of michelle le, frazier went to esteban's house for a visit. >> we showed up on september morning, waited for her to come up to her house, i pulled up in front with two other investigators. we got out of the car and she looked at me very nonchalantly, dismissively. what now? you are under arrest.
not, for what, or anything. it was just like a matter of fact, she was waiting for it. there was no sign of guilt or no sign of remorse, there was nothing. she was just like, okay. and when the news was announced, michele's family knew giselle, knew her as one of michelle's the closest friends. and they were stunned. >> i never suspected her or thought the worst until we knew for sure. >> i didn't think it was her. when giselle had problems, michel would go to canceling sessions with her. that was her last text to jail. no matter what, you will always be my friend. >> reporter: and now with giselle esteban's arrest, the family found themselves in a paradox, that someone would finally be held accountable for michel's appearance, yet refusing to accept that she was dead. to them, the fact that nobody had been found meant that there was still hope, however slim,
that they could find her alive. >> i was still hoping, without finding my sisters remains, i was still holding out hope. until it was definitive, we were going to fight for her. >> reporter: and so, 113 days after michelle disappeared, ten days after the arrest, the family mounted yet another search. this time they were joined by carey mcgovern nickel, whose daughter amber dubois had been kidnapped two years earlier. and like martin clashed before, her carry formed an organization to help find the missing. she brought a search dog with her, a search dog in training. >> she was acting we, are jumping all over the place. barking and wanted to get away from me. and as i buckled her up, she took off from me and ran. and i started running after her and she comes back and jumps up on me and takes off again. and i followed her and she was just standing still. as i reached out to put her
leash on, i noticed some twine, some rope sticking out of the ground. and then some bones next to it. it was the skeletal remains of a young woman, unidentified. michele's cousin christine was back at the command center. >> i remember search director, brad dennis, he took a break and looked at me and said, babe, we will be right back. he never leaves the search center. so he left and i was, like oh, something must have happened, he must have found something. but he was like, i just need a break. i'm going out there. some random evidence they found, i thought. >> reporter: but then the phone rang, a reporter with a tip from someone in the search party. >> i heard they found michele's body, can you comment on that? and i just started shaking. i said, we have now found her. but i knew that they did when i
got that call from the reporter. i knew. >> reporter: but there was no confirmation, not yet. the medical examiner still had to matchup dental records. and that could still take a few days. >> it may sound dumb now, but i still -- i was still really stubborn about it. there was nothing that could tell me that michele was dead. but we all stayed in a hotel room because we were all hiding and wanted to know where we were, in the hotel room, and we wanted to stay there for the next few days. and then about four days later, the hayward police came to our hotel and they told us that she had been confirmed to be found, there were dental records. >> and at that point you could not pretend anymore. >> yeah. >> after four months, the families long and determined search to find michelle ways over. but their goal, no matter how
remote, was always to bring her home alive. that she was found dead was a blow that took them to their knees. >> that was one of the very few times where i let myself cry. part of me was relieved that it was over, that we had found her and brought her home. and a majority of me was very angry. and it just felt hollow. >> reporter: there was one thing left to do. make sure that michelle got justice. but that, it turned out, was not going to be so easy. coming up, giselle on trial and her defense strategy surprises everyone. >> i think that if you are going to defend against the indefensible, you have to find a better way of doing it then
to vilify the victim. >> reporter: will it work? when "dateline" continues. k? when "dateline" continues. hi, i'm noninvasive and i detect altered dna in your stool to find 92% of colon cancers even in early stages. early stages. it's for people 45 plus at average risk for colon cancer, not high risk. false positive and negative results may occur. ask your provider if cologuard is right for you. (all) to screening! ♪♪ for skin that never holds you back. don't settle for silver. #1 for diabetic dry skin #1 for psoriasis symptom relief and #1 for eczema symptom relief. gold bond. champion your skin. i've been telling everyone... the secret to great teeth is having healthy gums. crest advanced gum restore. detoxifies below the gumline... and restores by helping heal gums in as little as 7 days.
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we stkeith morrison: inad out arouoctober of 2012,rter? when was giselle esteban went on trial for the murder went on trial for the murder of michelle le, prosecutor butch ford expected he would have his hands full. >> i thought she would fight tooth and nail that she did not do it, because she does not want her family and her kids to know that he was responsible for that. >> reporter: so, in his opening statement, ford laid out a devastating case, all pointing to premeditated first degree murder. murder? tons of it esteban's life was in shambles, said forward. she lost custody of her daughter, her boyfriend left her. she blamed it all on her successful, to beautiful friend michelle. and said set about methodically to kill one of the few people
who tried to be her friend. why did she sneak into the school? to find michelle's new address and maybe kill her there. why did she send those text from the apple store in chuck e. cheese? to cover-up or crime. but she could not hide from the cameras. so the prosecutor but -- her own electronic trail and the dna in the car confirmed it. the evidence was overwhelming. just know refuting it, said forward. and so the defense did not even try. instead, they did something wholly unexpected, a big surprise. giselle admitted that she did it. >> so you are putting all these building blocks together, to show that she had to be responsible for this? >> yes. >> then she goes and admits it? >> i could not believe that she would allow her defense to be, i did it. >> reporter: but there was a reason, said the defense. there giselle had been provoked. she killed michelle in the heat
of passion. michelle, she claimed, was a lying schemer who had been busy stealing wet little giselle had left in life, her family. mark class watched from the back of the courtroom. he was disgusted. >> i don't think character is as a nation is a defense. if you are going to defend against the indefensible, i think you have to find a better way of doing it then to vilify the victim. >> reporter: but ford was worried, the defense might just work. >> if i come in as a defense lawyer, and we are going to tell you, my client did it, even though the prosecution has the burden of proof. but we are going to tell you why it happened. that's the most important thing. >> and that's something the da cannot tell you. >> yes. and it has an air of credibility. >> voluntary manslaughter? -- >> yes and then you get out in nine years. >> there was another problem. even as ford methodically laid
out the evidence for the jury, what he could not do -- and this turned out to be a big hole in the case -- was tell the jury how the murder took place. michele's remains were so decomposed that the coroner could not determine the cause of death. >> the pathologists report indicated that they not only visually examined my shelves remains but also examined it using an x-ray to look for any sort of trauma to her skull, her bones, anything of that nature. they couldn't locate any. >> and while the camera recorded just about everything before and after the murder, they did not capture the crime itself. >> it is my position that the evidence of the crime is most supported by on assault weapon, a sharp object, a stabbing object, a knife, a box cutter, something to that effect. truthfully, i believe that she snuck up behind, or grabbed her by her hair and assaulted her with a sharp object. >> that would explain why that
small woman can do that kind of thing. >> yes. it immediately incapacitate you, you cannot yell out, you cannot scream. the forensic evidence, the blood evidence, all of that seems to indicate that type of assault. the only person who knows for sure is giselle. >> reporter: but she wasn't talking, choosing instead to sit passively throughout the trial. >> they look at the jury and they must be, like what are they buying this, are they believing all this nonsense that the defense is offering up? that this is heat of passion? that this was not planned? >> reporter: michael was in court every day, as was christine and the aunts and uncles and parents. all of them took time off work to be united for them michelle. >> oftentimes, in homicide cases, nobody shows up for the victim. or maybe it is a mother or a father or a sibling. in this case, every day there were between 12 and 20 family
members. and knowing that the vast majority of them had traveled from san diego, to the present, to show everybody that michelle was missed, it was really touching to me and inspiring in that, again, it made me want to work even harder to ensure that i had done everything i could to bring about what was a just result. and i had mentioned that that was the only thing i promised to the family, that i would work as hard as i could to make sure that the right result came. >> do you encounter families like that very often? >> on that level, no. i >> reporter: when the case went to the jury, everything was up in the air. prosecutor for did not worry particularly when the jury stayed out the full day. even when it stayed out two days. but after three days, ford began to wonder if he had done enough to debunk giselle's heat of passion defense. after forward, everyone
wondered. >> the longest i ever had was four days for deliberation. this is getting to four and a half. so i started have concerns. >> reporter: coming, up day five and the suspense is over. the jury sends word of a verdict. >> we were all holding hands in the front row. >> reporter: will there be justice for michelle? when "dateline" continues. when "dateline" continues. and it turns out the general is a quality insurance company that's been saving people money for nearly 60 years. for a great low rate, and nearly 60 years of quality coverage, go with the general.
well i don't want artificial dyes in my kid's medicine. is genexa right for me? yes! genexa uses clean non-gmo ingredients. well i don't want some hippy medicine! is genexa right for me? yes! -well i have a gluten thing. -yes! -well... -yes! -us? -yes! is this just another stupid big pharma ad? -no! look for genexa, the first clean medicine company. giselle diwag esteban bradley keith morrison: giselle esteban readily admitted she killed her friend michelle le. admitted she killed her friend michelle le. but she claimed it was in the heat at the moment. she was angry, provoked by michelle. the defense which, in a way, blamed michelle for her own death. to the friends and families sitting in the courtroom, the strategy seemed outrageous. and yet, after the jury had been out for long days, they all worried that it had worked.
>> i was wondering if the jury saw the same trial i did. >> i was going crazy, wondering if they felt sympathy for the defendant because she was a woman or because she has a children. you never know. >> by the fifth day, we were thinking, what if they let her off easy? >> reporter: and then finally, on the fifth day, the jury announced they were ready. there could be no acquittal. their choices were first degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, a verdict that could have esteban back on the street before she was 40. >> our hearts were pounding. we lined up and we sat down. and we saw the jury walk in. a couple of them, you could just tell on their faces that they were exhausted, they looked exhausted. we were just all holding hands
in the front row. all shaking and you could see bush and he was up there, and all of us were just praying. and then we heard guilty of murder first. i burst right into tears. there was that feeling of just being so indescribable, how much relief that there was. >> reporter: 17 months after michelle le went missing, after endless searches and a relentless investigation, and a tense trial, finally an end. the search for that michelle and justice was over. >> one thing i was so angry about was that nothing made sense. nothing made sense. why did it have to happen to michelle? and so i think the verdict brought reason. a sense of, someone committed a murder, they will pay for the crime. >> it is just as awful as it
was and the loss is just as great, the world is back on its axis, though, is it? >> in some way, yes. >> what was it like to get that verdict? where was it like? >> in one word, relief. >> -- >> she asked, how is michele's family doing. because i hadn't talked to her about what a great family they were. i have nothing but respect for them. more than anything, i appreciated that they had faith in me as well as in the process. >> reporter: the families uncommon grace, dignity and determined togetherness affected many of the families that stood with them during those dark months. >> they were able to do with a lot of other families have never been able to do. and that is rally are around each other in a time of great need, to prop each other up. >> reporter: michael and christine volunteered with the organization of marc klaas. they volunteered in the case of a teenager kidnap near san jose
as a way to honor michelle. michelle, who still refuses, somehow, to leave them. >> she mainly comes in dreams and it is so real that it feels like her. and she will not say a thing, she will just give me a hug. or something. i would flip out and say, michelle, where have you've been, we had this huge thing, we thought you were gone. and she laughs and she says, fine. and michael? when he and michele were little, they asked their mother to tell them an old vietnamese folk tale, of a woman who protects and watches over them. the tale is very brief now for michael le them. when >> i feel like they are always watching me. and at the very least, i like
to believe that my sister is with us and that we are together. i know it is not my time yet. ♪ ♪ ♪ this sunday a change at the supreme court. >> the announced retirement of justice stephen breyer. >> people have come to accept this constitution and they have come to accept the -- >> president biden a chance to make an historic appointment. >> that person will be the first black person ever nominated to the supreme court. >> and a disappointed corps of democratic voters. despite the votes, will the president still try to fight this nomination? >> they're trying to use this to distract from what is their failed agenda.