Image: Michelle Hoang Thi Le
Anonymous  /  AP
This undated file handout photo provided by the Hayward Police Department shows 26-year-old female nursing student Michelle Hoang Thi Le, who disappeared May 27 from a Hayward hospital during a break in a clinical lesson. Conclusive evidence in the case of the missing Northern California nursing student points to homicide, police said Monday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6/7/2011 5:00:21 AM ET 2011-06-07T09:00:21

While police on Monday said conclusive evidence in the case of missing Northern California nursing student Michelle Le points to homicide, her family said they believe she is still alive and urged everyone to remain hopeful.

Hayward police Capt. Darryl McAllister said a forensic examination of Le's car and the parking garage where the vehicle was found, video evidence from the garage, and other evidence have led them to believe the 26-year-old was killed.

A northern California newspaper reported the suspected killer in the case appeared to have targeted her.

"We do believe someone specifically intended to go after Michelle," McAllister also said, according to the Oakland Tribune. "This was not a case of a stranger jumping out of the bushes."

No suspects have been arrested, but detectives are questioning people of interest. McAllister said more than 25 people had been interviewed so far, and the Alameda County district attorney is evaluating the evidence.

Video: Le’s younger brother: ‘She loved me so much’ (on this page)

"My heart goes out to this family for dealing with this ordeal to begin with — anyone who's loved one suddenly ends up missing under very suspicious circumstances," McAllister said, adding that the family was at the station Monday evening discussing the decision with investigators. "What the family goes through in those times trying to find answers ... is agonizing."

Le was last seen May 27, when the Merritt College nursing student took a work break during a clinical rotation shift at a Hayward, Calif., hospital and never returned.

'Don't give up hope'
The Tribune reported that she told colleagues she was stepping out to retrieve something from her car, but she never returned. She had plans to meet a friend after her shift to start a trip to Reno, Nev., the report said.

In addition to evidence from her car and the video surveillance system, police said Le's cellphone records and items collected during search warrants also indicate that she was killed.

McAllister said he did not want to jeopardize the investigation by elaborating further but confirmed that the evidence points conclusively to homicide. Investigators were searching remote areas of Alameda County for Le's body, McAllister said.

The news came hours after the reward for information leading to Le's safe return increased to $65,000. Le's school and the construction company where she worked as a clerk in the accounting division paired up to contribute $45,000, the Tribune reported, adding to the $20,000 her family had already offered.

Her family posted a message late Monday on a website tracking search efforts.

"The family believes Michelle is alive. Don't give up hope everyone. We're still going to keep at it," it read.

On Sunday, Le's family expressed frustration with the pace of the Hayward police investigation and called for the FBI to take over. A Le family spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment about the homicide designation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Le’s younger brother: ‘She loved me so much’

  1. Closed captioning of: Le’s younger brother: ‘She loved me so much’

    >>> california are searching for a missing nursing student . 26-year-old michelle le disappeared last week after making clinical rounds at the hospital where she was interning. during her break she never returned to work. family and friends held a vigil on friday night hoping for her safe return. joining us now michelle 's brother, michael , and cousin, christine . thanks for joining us.

    >> good morning. thank you for having us.

    >> michael , let me start by asking you this, your sister was last seen over a week ago. she told some colleagues at work she was running out to her car. she never came back. her car was found a half mile from where she worked and it was locked. what do you think might have happened to her?

    >> i'm not sure. i want to believe that maybe she had an off day.

    >> sure. we don't know -- we don't know much about her. tell me a little bit about michelle . was this like her not to return to work?

    >> michelle was caring. as an older sister at times overprotective. at times overbearing for me as a little brother . ever since my mom passed away, she has been like a mother figure to me. and so at times she is a bit overbearing but, i just wish that -- i just wish that i was able to tell her that i loved her more.

    >> sure.

    >> because she loved me so much and she conveyed that.

    >> i understand she became a nurse because your mom was a nurse as well. christine , let me ask you, you're her cousin, you are a close family. what was the last time you spoke to michelle and what was her demeanor like the last time you did?

    >> i spoke to her last thursday, the thursday actually the night before she disappeared, i spoke to her the day before. i just had moved up to the bay area this very past monday and she and i were going to get lunch on wednesday to catch up. she had been busy with nursing school so i was looking forward to catching up with her. we just touched base to talk about that.

    >> now i understand you guys just held your vigil. what is the latest, michael , on the investigation? what are authorities telling you right now?

    >> honestly, they're not telling us much. they say they don't want to jeopardize the investigation. i understand that but it's just hard not knowing where she is or any new developments in the case.

    >> we should mention that the reward now is over $40,000 with any information. and, please, both of you accept our thoughts as you at this point your search for michelle . christine and michael le, thank you so, so much.

    >> thank you.

    >> thank you.

    >> and if you have any more information on michelle le's whereabouts please call the hayward police department hotline at the number that's on the screen.

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