OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A prosecutor told jurors Thursday that Giselle Esteban is “a sociopath” who should be convicted of first-degree murder because she premeditated the death of nursing student Michelle Le last year.
In his closing argument in Esteban’s trial, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Butch Ford said Esteban planned Le’s death for months and played a recording of a conversation Esteban had with her ex-boyfriend six months before Le was killed in May 2011 in which Esteban was “laughing and talking about killing people.”
In the recording, Esteban can be heard telling Scott Marasigan, the father of her 6-year-old daughter, “You deserve to die for your lies, as does she,” referring to Le.
Ford alleged that Esteban, 28, of Union City, killed Le, a 26-year-old San Mateo woman who attended Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, out of a mistaken belief that she was having an affair with Marasigan.
Marasigan, 28, testified during the three-week trial that he dated Le for about a month in the spring of 2003 but never had sex with her, although they remained friends after he started seriously dating Esteban later that year. Marasigan and Esteban had an on-again, off-again relationship for many years but ultimately broke up and Marasigan was awarded custody of their daughter.
Le disappeared from the parking lot of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward on May 27, 2011, and her decomposed body was found four months later, on Sept. 17, 2011, in a remote area between Pleasanton and Sunol.
Le and Esteban were high school friends in San Diego and both came to the Bay Area to attend college.
Esteban’s lawyer, Andrea Auer, admitted that Esteban killed Le but said she should only be convicted of voluntary manslaughter because she acted in the heat of passion after Le provoked her.
However, Ford said Le was “a completely innocent victim in this case,” and didn’t do anything to provoke Esteban. He said Auer, who chose not to put Esteban on the witness stand, failed to specify how Esteban could have been provoked except for in her own mind.
Auer said another reason Esteban should only be convicted of voluntary manslaughter is “the prosecution’s jigsaw puzzle has a massive hole in the middle.”
Referring to Le, Auer said, “You have no evidence of how this gal died.”
Auer conceded that Esteban had sent dozens of threatening text messages and waited for Le in the Kaiser parking lot for four hours until Le went to her car about 7 p.m. on May 27, 2011, during a break in her classes and there was some type of confrontation. But she said, “You don’t know who started it, what was said and what happened.”
Ford responded by alleging that Auer is asking jurors to “reward the defendant (Esteban) for hiding the body of everyone who loved her (Le).”
Ford said, “We may never know how Michelle was assaulted” but he said the fact that Le’s blood that was found in Le’s car indicates that Esteban may have approached her from behind and slit her throat.
The prosecutor said, “Michelle didn’t assault herself in the garage and bury herself” and the fact that her body was dumped in a remote area where it wasn’t discovered for four months indicates that Esteban had planned ahead of time to murder Le and bury her where she couldn’t be found.
Although Esteban never testified about what was going on in her mind, Auer said she thinks Esteban never believed Marasigan’s repeated statements to her that he never had sex with Le.
She said Esteban became suspicious in 2005, when she was pregnant with the couple’s daughter and learned that Le had confided in Marasigan that she also was pregnant but planned to have an abortion.
Auer asked, “What woman tells a man she’s not intimate with that she’s pregnant and is going to get an abortion?”
She said, “Where Giselle saw smoke, there was fire, at least for Giselle, and it makes perfect sense for her to think that Scott had sex with Michelle or is the father of her unborn child.”
Referring to Esteban, Auer said “almost nothing would sway her” from her belief that Marasigan and Le had a sexual relationship.
But Ford said Auer’s remark concedes that Esteban “was unreasonable” and had no rational basis for believing that Marasigan and Le were intimate.
Ford also said if Esteban had been upset with Marasigan and Le in 2005 she had ample time to cool down and consequently didn’t act in the heat of passion when she killed Le in May 2011.
“Six years is clearly a long cooling-off period,” Ford said.
Jurors will begin deliberating Esteban’s fate on Monday morning.
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