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.
"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.