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Missing Hayward Student’s Family Disputes Homicide Conclusion

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HAYWARD (CBS SF) – Family members of missing nursing student Michelle Le said Tuesday they think Le is still alive even though the Hayward Police Department is treating the case as a homicide.

“We are not giving up on finding Michelle alive,” Le’s father, Son Le, said Tuesday afternoon.

Le, 26, went missing at about 7 p.m. on May 27 from Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center on Sleepy Hollow Avenue in Hayward.

Le told classmates she was planning to drive to Reno after her rotation at the hospital. She left during a break and did not return, according to Hayward police.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

Speaking to reporters outside the Hayward police station this afternoon, Son Le said, “We will continue to hope and pray for her return until there is conclusive and definitive proof that she is dead.”

He said, “We believe that Michelle is still alive and needs to be found.”

On a website Le’s family created, michellelemissing.com, the family has posted, “The family believes Michelle is alive. Don’t give up hope everyone. We’re still going to keep at it.”

Hayward police said they discovered compelling evidence during the investigation that “points conclusively to homicide,” and that the search has officially become “an effort of recovery.”

But Le said, “If you call it a murder case, you have to have a body, but there is no body.”

The family has said they learned more from media reports on Monday than from their conversations with police.

“We are frustrated with the lack of information” from Hayward police, said Michael Le, Michelle’s brother.

He said Hayward police told the family there is a reason they are classifying the case as a homicide, but they don’t want to disclose it to the family yet.

Hayward police Sgt. Steve Brown said investigators wanted to remain hopeful that Le was still alive, but “based on all the evidence, we have the grim possibility that Michelle is dead and we should prepare for the worst.”

Brown said he understands that Le’s family members are frustrated about not getting as much information as they would like, but that “there are only certain things we can relay” at this time.

Commenting on the family’s hope that Le is still alive, Brown said, “We understand, and if were in the same position we would probably feel the same way.”

Brown said 25 people have been interviewed in connection with the case so far and police expect to conduct more interviews Tuesday.

He said police are exploring the possibility that Le was targeted, and believe her case is not random.

Police were still hoping to recover Le’s body, and Brown said they are searching “remote areas of the East Bay,” but declined to be more specific.

Police are working with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in examining the evidence, Brown said.

FBI spokeswoman Julianne Sohn said the FBI has been in close contact with Hayward police and “have made every appropriate resource available to them.”

Son Le said there will be a vigil Thursday evening for Le and there will be a distribution of fliers on Sunday. The details will be announced later, he said. More information will be posted on the family’s website, michellelemissing.com.

The site also lists a family phone number, (510) 303-3013, for people to call to share any information about Le, along with contact numbers for Hayward police.

The family also has created a Facebook page, “Help Find Michelle Hoang Thi Le – Missing from San Mateo, California.”

Le, a graduate of San Francisco State University, had enrolled in Samuel Merritt University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in January.

Samuel Merritt University spokeswoman Elizabeth Valente said Tuesday, “It is with heavy hearts that we learn from the Hayward Police Department that Michelle Le’s missing person case has now become a murder investigation.”

Police said factors that led to the case’s new classification include forensic evidence collected from Le’s car and the area of the parking structure where it was located; information collected during interviews; examination of evidence gathered during service of search warrants; review of video footage from the garage and other locations; and examination of Le’s cellphone records.

Le is 5 feet 6 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information about her disappearance is asked to call Hayward police at (510) 293-7000.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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