OAKLAND (CBS SF) – The defense lawyer for Giselle Esteban on Monday didn’t deny the prosecution’s allegation that the Union City woman killed nursing student Michelle Le, who disappeared from Hayward in May 2011 and whose body was found four months later.
Defense attorney Andrea Auer admitted that the prosecution has “a mountain of evidence” against Esteban, 28, but told jurors that she doesn’t think it will be able to prove that Esteban committed either first- or second-degree murder for the death of Le, who had been her close friend in high school and in their college years in the Bay Area.
Although prosecutor Butch Ford provided tape recordings and text messages showing that Esteban talked about killing Le as early as Nov. 19, 2010, six months before Le disappeared on May 27, 2011, Auer said Esteban didn’t premeditate killing Le but instead acted “out of extraordinary provocation and the heat of passion.”
However, Auer didn’t say what the provocation was.
In his hour-long opening statement in the closely-watched and packed trial, Ford alleged that Esteban killed Le out of “jealousy, hatred and rage” because she blamed Le for wrecking her relationship with her daughter’s father, Scott Marasigan.
Ford said Marasigan met Esteban when they were students at San Francisco State University in the fall of 2002 and through Esteban he met Le, who was a student at San Jose State University at the time. Le later moved to San Mateo and was a nursing student at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland.
Ford said Marasigan and Le dated for about a month but never had a sexual relationship and remained friends afterward. The prosecutor said Marasigan began dating Esteban in the fall of 2003 and on Oct. 31, 2005, Esteban gave birth to a daughter who was fathered by Esteban.
Esteban and Marasigan lived together for a time but had a rocky relationship and eventually broke up, Ford said.
Esteban initially had custody of their daughter, Isabella, and lived with her in San Diego but Marasigan was awarded custody in 2009 and brought her to live with him in the Fremont area, according to Ford.
In the meantime, Marasigan remained friends with Le and saw her occasionally, Ford said.
He said, “Esteban believed there was a love triangle but there was no such thing. Scott and Michelle were just friends.”
Ford said Esteban went to extraordinary lengths to find and hunt down Le, including doing more than 100 Internet searches and using false names to obtain information about Le from staff members at the nursing school.
He said the day before Le disappeared, Esteban stole an employee’s photo identification card so she was able to enter Samuel Merritt University after normal business hours and access documents which revealed Le’s personal information, such as her phone numbers and addresses.
Ford said videotapes and cell phone records indicate that Esteban ultimately tracked down Le on May 27, 2011, at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward, where Le was attending a class.
He said DNA evidence, along with the videotapes and cell phone records, indicates that Esteban attacked Le at the medical center’s parking lot and disposed of her body in a remote area between Pleasanton and Sunol, where it eventually was found on Sept. 17, 2011.
Auer admitted that Esteban had “a volcanic desire to kill Michelle” but told jurors that the case is more complicated than the picture that Ford presented.
Auer alleged that Le had an abortion in 2005, which is the same time that Esteban was pregnant, and she said Esteban was mad at Marasigan because she thought he also was the father of Le’s allegedly aborted child.
Auer said that when Marasigan was awarded custody of their daughter, Isabella, Esteban’s life “unraveled and she became unstable.”
The defense lawyer said although Marasigan and Esteban had a rocky relationship and had broken up long before, they had sex in February 2011 and Esteban believed he may have been the father of a second child she had in November 2011.
Marasigan admitted on the witness stand Monday that he had sex with Esteban on one occasion in early 2011 but he said he doesn’t think he is the father of her second child.
Marasigan testified that Esteban repeatedly threatened to kill both Le and him because she believed they had been dishonest and had betrayed her.
He said that in a conversation he recorded on his cell phone on Nov. 19, 2010, Esteban told him, “You deserve to die for your lies, as does she.”
Marasigan told Ford that Esteban was referring to Le.
Marasigan will continue his testimony Tuesday morning and is expected to be cross-examined later in the day by Auer, who told jurors his testimony is “absolutely critical” in the case. Esteban’s trial is expected to take about a month.
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