Volunteers search Niles Canyon for Michelle Le

June 18, 2011 1:25:59 AM PDT
The family and friends of a missing nursing student from Hayward launched a three-day search for her on Friday. They were joined by a number of volunteers searching Niles Canyon in Fremont, even though police are now calling Michelle Le's case a homicide. She disappeared three weeks ago this Friday.

The same area has been searched before by Hayward Police and was a focus from the beginning since Le disappeared on May 27. Now, a citizens' search party gave Niles Canyon a closer look.

Dozens of searchers spread out along a several mile stretch of remote Niles Canyon looking for any sign of missing nursing student Le.

"We're just kind of sweeping the area, zigzagging back and forth, making sure we cover all the areas possible, looking for any type of evidence or any type of ground that's been disturbed," said searcher Quoc Tran.

Tran is part of a group that drove all night from Orange County.

"We started heading up around 12:30, midnight. We've been driving ever since. None of us got any sleep. We're just really anxious, we wanted to come here and help out," said searcher An Nguyen.

The group is called G.I. Joe Search and Rescue organized two months ago to find a friend lost hiking in a remote area. They have experience in searching for evidence and finding a body.

"I really don't know how it will affect me unless it happens. I don't want to think about what will happen. I just want to assume the best and I want to assume that we'll find her alive," said Michael Le, Le's brother.

The day began early in Hayward where about 70 volunteers gathered for a briefing on how to conduct their efforts in a safe manner, without disturbing potential evidence.

A Hayward police spokesman told ABC7, the search areas were identified through information gathered from forensic analysis of Le's cell phone records. They include locations where her phone last pinged on a cell tower before it went dead.

Police have identified dozens of persons of interest since Le disappeared from the Kaiser Hospital parking garage in Hayward on May 27.

Some of the searchers who turned out knew her from the nursing program at the hospital, while others had only heard of her.

"I actually didn't know her because we're 10 years apart," said sorority sister Lucia Greenfield, "but you just feel that bond. You know it's a very special group of women that belong to the sorority."

"I wanted to help bring closure to the family, whether or not the young lady is still alive or whether she is deceased," said Hayward resident Tommy Parish. "I think the family deserves that. I think more community involvement is necessary at this time."

Marc Klaas, the father of abducted child Polly Klaas who was found murdered in 1993, was able to bring his celebrity and the Klaas Kids Foundation Search Operation to help.

"As soon as we realized that Polly had been recovered and that she was dead, the fear evaporated and was, quite frankly, replaced with an awful lot of anger," said Klaas.

Le's brother is remaining optimistic.

"We don't care much if they get the guy or they get the girl, whoever's involved. It's just we just want her home," said Michael.

The search teams will be back out on Saturday morning and on Sunday. It's an effort being organized on Facebook and on the Internet and they are looking for more volunteers for the weekend.

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