HAYWARD -- A team of 35 investigators scoured about 30 square miles of canyons, fields and hills in southeastern Alameda County on Friday, but came up empty-handed in a search for missing nursing student Michelle Le.
Hayward forensic investigators and dog handlers joined a team specially trained in searching rural areas as they converged on sites that included Niles Canyon, Palomares Canyon and ranchland off Mission Boulevard in Union City, in what was their second-largest physical search of an area so far, police said.
"We believe that Michelle is somewhere in the East Bay, and in a rural area," Hayward police Capt. Darryl McAllister said. "That is where our evidence is telling us to look, and today's locations fit the bill."
McAllister said they have made more than a half-dozen searches of such rural areas since Le disappeared May 27.
The search came a day after Le's family held a second support rally that drew more than 100 people to Mount Eden Park, just across the intersection from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center parking garage where police believe she was accosted during a break from her duties at the hospital.
Police said earlier this week that there was an unspecified amount of blood evidence at the crime scene and considered Friday's search a body recovery effort. But they haven't provided further details as to why they reclassified the case to a homicide Monday.
Family members and supporters say they will not give up hope that Le is alive until given such definitive evidence.
"We know there are parts of the investigation that we probably shouldn't know about, and we respect Hayward police for withholding those details," said Le's cousin Krystine Dinh. "But if we're not given compelling evidence, we can't say that she's gone."
Le's brother reiterated the family's determination to remain optimistic.
"We lost our mom 12 years ago, and I grieved then," said Michael Le, 23.
"We lost grandpa two years ago, and I grieved then. But I'm not grieving right now -- it's not time to grieve. We're going to keep fighting to find her."
For more information about the family's search for Michelle Le, go to www.michellelemissing.com.
Contact Eric Kurhi at 510-293-2473.