OAKLAND -- Giselle Esteban sat emotionless, staring straight ahead Monday morning as an Alameda County Superior Court judge pronounced a punishment that could leave the convicted killer of her one-time best friend in prison until she dies.
Esteban, 28, of Union City, struck a similar emotionless empty stare as Krystine Dinh spoke of the now-unfulfilled dreams of the future she and her cousin Michelle Le, 26, once shared.
And Esteban failed to shed a tear as Le's brother Michael Le broke down crying as he described the day his sister's bones were found barely buried under a pile of vegetation in a secluded area of Sunol.
"No where have I seen or heard any hint of remorse," Judge Jon Rolefson said of Esteban.
Esteban will now have at least 25 years, and most likely longer, to think about her crime as she sits in prison for killing nursing student Michelle Le in a jealousy-fueled rage because she believed that Le was having an affair with Esteban's former boyfriend and father of her child. Esteban and Le were best friends when they grew up in San Diego.
Less than two months after a jury found Esteban guilty of the crime despite a cause of death, Rolefson brought a small sense of closure to Le's family and friends as he sent her killer to prison for 25 years to life.
"You may have taken away her life but not her legacy," Dinh said to Esteban during a sentencing hearing. "The verdict will never bring her back, but we will be able to breath a little easier knowing her murderer is behind bars."
A jury found Esteban guilty of first-degree murder after hearing evidence that showed Esteban took extraordinary efforts to find Le, stake out her workplace and then plan a sneak attack in a parking garage at the Kaiser Medical Center in Hayward.
Le, who lived in San Mateo, was initially considered a missing person when she failed to report back to work after taking a break on May 27, 2011, but Hayward police soon determined that she was murdered and pegged Esteban as the killer.
Evidence presented during the murder trial proved that Esteban made endless death threats to Le and Esteban's former boyfriend Scott Marasigan, who was also friends with Le. Esteban believed that Le and Marasigan were having an affair and feared that Le was going to destroy any chance of Esteban and Marasigan getting back together.
Esteban's attorney, Andrea Auer, admitted during the trial that her client killed Le but said the killing was, at most, a manslaughter sparked by a "heat of passion."
The jury felt otherwise as it was convinced that Esteban's endless threats, months of planning and nonchalant attitude after the killing proved it was premeditated.
Dinh said Esteban's defense tactic was offensive.
"It felt like (you were) spitting in Michelle's face, it felt like (you were) spitting in our face," Dinh said.
Michael Le said Esteban's attitude after Michelle Le was killed and her demeanor throughout the legal proceedings proved that she probably still believes the killing was justified.
"Esteban didn't and will never care; in her mind she probably still believes murdering Michelle was justified," Michael Le said. "Michelle did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing."
Michael Le said he hopes parole boards in the future will read the letters he and his family wrote and never allow Esteban to be released.
"The injustice of letting her out will be like Michelle being murdered all over again," he said.