OAKLAND -- A day after nursing student Michelle Le went missing, investigators from the Hayward Police Department focused their attention on Giselle Esteban, a woman, others said, who had issues with Le.
Just after midnight on May 29, 2011, Inspector Fraser Ritchie and others went to Esteban's house and conducted an interview that Ritchie recorded and that was played to jurors Wednesday in the murder trial against Esteban.
During the almost two-hour long discussion, Esteban is heard going through a wide range of emotions from laughter to crying as Ritchie asks about her relationship with Le, if she had an alibi for the night Le went missing and if she had some kind of argument with the San Diego native.
Esteban denies having any altercation with Le, but many of the answers she gave during that interview raised Ritchie's suspicions that Esteban was involved in the disappearance, he testified.
While Ritche told Esteban she was not a suspect and that he was only interviewing her to gain insight into where Le could be, the investigator's questions at times appeared to concern Esteban, who on several occasions asked if she was a suspect.
"Now, are you accusing me?" Esteban is heard saying after one exchange. "Are you talking to anyone else?"
Among the answers Ritchie said were "troubling" were Esteban's admissions that she saw Le on May 26, 2011, walking across a pedestrian bridge into the parking garage of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward.
Esteban said she was in a parking lot below the bridge and saw Le walking across. But Ritchie said in court that he knew it was impossible for anyone to be able to identify a person seen walking across that bridge.
At the same time, however, Esteban said she couldn't remember what she did after seeing Le, only that she remembered driving home and being "anxious" and tired when she arrived back at her apartment.
Ritchie also was given permission by Esteban to search her cell phone and questioned why some text messages appeared to be erased while others were not. Esteban said her phone automatically erased older text messages, yet some that Ritchie found were several months old.
At one point, Esteban breaks down crying saying, "I don't want her to be gone."
But at other times, Esteban was defiant and continued to disparage Le's name, telling the detective that Le slept around and could have created many enemies because "she slept with a lot of other people's boyfriends."
Esteban is accused of killing Le, a one-time best friend, on May 26, 2011, and then dumping her body in a secluded area near the Sunol-Pleasanton border. Esteban believed that Le was having sex with Esteban's former boyfriend and father of her daughter.
Esteban's attorney, Andrea Auer, has not disputed that her client killed Le but told the jury in opening statements that the evidence against Esteban will show the killing was done in the "heat of passion."