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tv   Headliners  MSNBC  December 29, 2019 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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in america is really complicated or too expensive, it's not working for us because it's profiting off of our sickness. and whether you live or die could depend on which state you happen to be born into, and whether or not legislators in that state happen to be listening to voters. change is definitely coming, but everything from the smallest fix to a complete overhaul of the system isn't going to happen without a fight. so it's easy to get cynical. but it's important to remember who politicians ultimately work welcome back. convinced michelle le was alive and being held against her will, for. us. her family turned to a private investigator to find her. the pi believed whoever took michelle was someone she knew. they set up a tip line, then a glimmer of hope. would a call from jail lead them she mainly comes in dreams. to michelle? once again, here's keith and it's so real, it feels like morrison. >> michelle le had been missing her. for weeks. and she'll just give me a hug. no break in the case at all. why did it have to happen to our and then, just before we sat family? down for an interview with a why'd it have to happen to private investigator named
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michelle? why that day? michael fromme, his phone rang >> a young nursing student with a tip from an inmate who claimed to know where michelle disappears. >> she was still dressed in could be found. >> so who do you think is white hospital scrubs. involved in michelle's something drew her out to her car. disappearance? >> what is this guy saying? >> the cousins she grew up with. that he -- what can he tell you? the brother she raised desperate >> he said he has information as to find her. >> they were able to do what a to a potential site where lot of other families have never michelle may be. >> fromme made the trip out to been able to do. the jail for a face-to-face >> text messages, security interview. >> the parolee's information was monitors, surveillance video. that she had been abducted and were they signs she was trapped, was being held at a house in reaching out for help? hayward. and it turned out, >> one of the things i was so unfortunately, that this angry about was that nothing information was related to made sense. another criminal act and had >> moment by moment -- nothing to do with michelle's >> come take a look at this! disappearance. >> -- "dateline" was there for >> back in hayward, the police might have been accomplishing every turn. something, but they were saying >> there's blood wiped across here. >> was she missing or murdered? nothing beyond their belief that was this the key? michelle was dead. >> i will take your life and and as far as the family could hers. >> a threat, a voice, seething tell, the police investigation seemed to be getting nowhere. with hate and rage. >> you deserve to die for your now the family's own private lies. it's your last and final investigator seemed lost in the weeds, as well. warning. >> what happened to michelle. hoping to shake loose a lead, >> this case is not going to be they increased the amount of the over until we get her home. reward money from $20,000 to
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$40,000 to $65,000 to $100,000, >> vanished. >> hello and welcome to all from private donations. "dateline extra." much it out of the family's own i'm craig melvin. nursing student michelle lei was pockets. so every day was precious, said her brother, michael. always responsible. that's why walking out of the hospital in the middle of her and every day that passed, a shift seemed so out of missed opportunity to find her. character. >> you know, she was always according to friends and family, looking out for me, so i -- this and yet, there it was on video. was my time to do everything i to uncover what happened to michelle, investigators followed can to look out for her, to make an electronic trail of chilling sure that what she was going through, she wouldn't have to go clues. but someone kept putting up through a day longer. >> so you must have had this digital roadblocks. here's keith morrison. sense that any day now, we'll find her and bring her back and everything will be okay again. >> every day, we were hoping that today was the day. >> they're watching us. you know, every day. they know where we are. >> it was obvious, as we talked how we shop. how we play. to michael, the intensity of his what we do. devotion for michelle. who we love. the reason for that, he told us a story about their mother. electronic eyes. >> my mom was pretty much our the sticky pixel fingerprints superhero. follow us almost everywhere. she worked long hours as a nurse and the weird fractured personal practitioner and she was an incredible mother to us. she was so loving.
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diary they write remains she would always tell us stories and -- >> stories about what? >> one that we always loved was forever. of course, it's meaningless, most of it. one called, the woman on the meaningless, that is until it's moon. and it's a vietnamese love story not. until it's terrifying. about, if you look really hard the san francisco bay, may 27th, enough, that the shad dose of the moon kind of looks like a woman with long, flowing hair. and the same day of the year, 2011. 6:55 p.m., a young nursing she would come down, looking for student named michelle lei walks the one that she loved. across a foot bridge from her but ultimately, she was trapped training hospital to the parking lot. she is not supposed to be here. for reasons unknown and without on the moon to watch over him. >> folklore is the kind of permission, she has left her post at the hospital. reality that is like armor for a child. here she walks to a white honda it protects in a time of terror. michael was 11 when his mother crv just out of camera range. learned she had breast cancer, then, 7:17 p.m., here is but she did not tell him. she protected him from the worst michelle's honda leaving the garage, but why? of it, both he and his why then, just an hour or two 14-year-old sister, michelle. before the end of her shift? and so, when the cancer finally good questions. took her life -- questions about to engulf a >> it came as a shock. she died december 1st, 1999, and whole family. >> why that day couldn't she have stepped out and gone to we had just seen her for another campus that day and avoided this whole thing. why did it have to happen to our thanksgiving, maybe about a week ago. family? >> now, alone, michael and
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why'd it have to happen to michelle? >> but it did. michelle were taken in by much of it recorded, as you will christine's family. >> she told me a story about how see, by those electronic beeps after her mom passed away, she and bites and pixels. didn't even know what to do at just enough to make it a truly puzzling mystery. first, until she saw michael in enough to not quite know what happened to michelle lei. the garage, holding something of >> one of the things i was so angry about was that nothing his mom's and crying. made sense. she told me, you know, that was nothing made sense. the time i knew, it was time to >> especially this. be, you know, a big sister and >> same night, 8:56 p.m. be a mother figure for him. michelle's nursing instructor, >> overcome her own sense of annoyed, baffled, worried by her loss and save this boy. >> oh, yeah. absence, takes a security guard to the parking lot to look for her car. 9:05 p.m. >> she made a sort of commitment michelle's car reenters the garage two floors below. to -- between her and i that she would look out for me. >> but not just michael. michelle also kept watch over 9:06 p.m., it arrives. christine. the car stops, backs up, races >> she was my -- like my older sister. down the ramp, out of the she dressed me, she helped garage. tweeze my eyebrows, she taught but why? me how to do makeup. alarmed, the nursing instructor >> taught you about boys. calls the police. >> oh, we talked about boys all and the next morning, 400 miles the time. south in san diego, michelle's she helped me write my first
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love letter. cousin, christine, was awakened when we were growing up, we were by a text from michelle's former so alike, that my family called boyfriend. >> and he message mess me. me mini michelle. he goes, hey, just to let you >> now mini michelle, michael, know, we don't know where and the rest of the le family held vigils, issued press michelle is. releases, anything to keep have you heard from her? try calling her. i looked at his message like, michelle's case in the public eye. >> i needed to work on something what did michelle do this time? all the time. she's usually out, having fun. that was her every day, that was related to her every day. >> she's a fun-loving person. >> did you feel like you were >> yeah. she's always out with her getting anywhere? >> it felt productive, but it friends. getting lost sometimes. still felt hopeless. so we thought -- i honestly didn't think much of it at time. hopeless in a sense where you just don't know what's going on. i read the message, and i rolled >> after weeks of casting about, over back in bed. they were no closer to finding >> michelle, after all, could michelle than they'd been that look after herself. had been looking out for first chaotic weekend. and it was sad, but perfectly christine for years. she was just 26, but seemed understandable that public somehow older than that. interest began to wane. the eldest of a clan of 15 it was during that period of darkness when one of michelle's cousins who grew up together uncles down in san diego begged for help from this woman, carrie with very little except each other. and michelle was smart and mcgonigal. >> michelle le's uncle asked, studious and attractive, the leaderstrong, loving center of you know, what do i do? i'm completely lost.
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>> why her? family, a mother figure to her younger brother, michael. because carrie had been through it all herself. michael, who was the next person two years earlier, he had to to get the call from the search for her murdered ex-boyfriend. where was michelle? daughter, amber dubois, and now >> i go, yeah, yeah, you know, she ran a search organization in ex-boyfriend just trying to get memory of her daughter. ahold of michelle. she couldn't know back then the role she was going to play, the so i didn't pay it any mind. events she would set in motion. for now, it was who she knew. but just in case, i wanted to see if she was okay, so i >> so i put him in touch with checked on her facebook recently marc klaas, because it was up in and she had plans to go to tahoe northern california and they were up in the same area. with some friends, so before going to work, i just sent those >> marc klaas, a rare man, with friends facebook messages, just a rare skill. to make sure she was okay. how to find the missing. >> michael went to work, didn't think much more about it. >> a man who knows how it feels but then he got another call. this time it was that nursing to lose a daughter and had instructor. learned from personal experience >> she was trying to decompose. and she told me the story of how how to lead the search. coming up -- >> we needed help from the she had went out to the garage police and when we pressed them, looking for michelle. she said she saw what matched why should we be looking there, the car's description, just they finally said, because that's where the cell towers take us. taking off. and suddenly, it wasn't a game >> when "vanished" continues. n s anymore. it wasn't something you could excuse. >> by then, christine was calling michelle's cell phone. >> she didn't pick up.
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that's when i had this feeling, where something might have been wrong, after she didn't pick up a2 hours after michelle was reported missing, police found her car. it was parked outside this apartment building, just a few blocks from the hospital, where michelle was last seen. odd. fraser ritchie was the hayward police inspector called in to have a look. >> the car was locked, it was secured. that's why we believed that michelle was possibly somewhere around here. but we had no clue where to start looking. >> what they could see through the tinted windows looked fine, as if michelle had probably left the car here herself. all morning, a flurry of worried phone calls went back and forth among michelle's friends and family. what should they do? >> it was just chaotic, but we weren't thinking the worst at the time. >> still in san diego, christine, along with her aunts, but in my mind i'm still 25. uncles, cousins, began packing that's why i take osteo bi-flex, for the eight-hour drive north to keep me moving the way i was made to.
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to san francisco's east bay. it nourishes and strengthens my joints for the long term. brother michael was attending college at uc berkeley and he osteo bi-flex - now in triple strength plus magnesium. rushed over to nearby hayward to join michelle's friends and a lot of folks ask me why their dishwasher fellow students who were already doesn't get everything clean. handing out missing posters i tell them, it may be your detergent... outside the hospital parking that's why more dishwasher brands garage. recommend cascade platinum... had anybody seen her? ...with the soaking, scrubbing and rinsing built right in. >> we all just wanted to find for sparkling-clean dishes, the first time. her. we didn't think that anything bad had happened to her. cascade platinum. >> where was she? they hammered her iphone with you sureyes.ut this? more than a hundred calls and [ suspensful music playing ] texts and heard in response nothing. then, 12:45 p.m., 15 hours after michelle was last seen, finally, a text from her phone. no! we need to keep moving. the whole things coming down. come on! "i am not missing," it read. i can't see. "my phone have been acting i can't see! crazy. it deleted everything. you need to trust me. all these texts have killed my jump! battery". michelle sent a flurry of reassuring texts to friends and family. so that ex-boyfriend texted her
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bo what are you doing back there, junior? since we're obviously lost, i'm rescheduling my xfinity customer service appointment. ah, relax. i got this. back. that phone number she knew almost as well as her own. which gps are you using anyway? her response, "who is this?". uh-oh. >> i asked, is it possible she could be out there all stressed a little something called instinct. out, they said, yes, it's possible. >> but soon, questions about been using it for years. michelle's friends would lead yeah, that's what i'm afraid of. them closer to what they knew he knows exactly where we're going. about this case. when "vanished" continues. is ca. my whole body is a compass. oh boy... when "vanished" continues. the my account app makes today's xfinity customer service simple, easy, awesome. not my thing. in a world where everything gets a sequel. it's finally time for... geico sequels! classic geico heroes, starring in six new commercials, with jaw-dropping savings. vote for your favorites at: ahhh, which way do i go?! i don't know, i'm voting for our sequels. with geico, the savings keep on going
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to a screen near you. not the leg! you dang woodchucks! welcome back. where was michelle le? geico sequels. vote and enter to win today! after weeks of searching, not the leg! you dang woodchucks! neither her family nor their it's laundry truths, with cat and nat. private investigator had any i have so many kids and so much laundry. clue. but help was on the way in the i don't have time for pretreating. form of a man who knew the pain what even is this? it looks like cheese but it smells like barf. with tide pods, you don't need to worry. in the form of a man who knew the pre-treaters are built in. the pain of a lost loed one so you just toss them in before the clothes. tide pods dissolve even when the water is freezing. firsthand. it was an experienced search and with the team under his command, police would check critical information putting the quest in nice! if it's got to be clean, it's got to be tide. a new direction. here again is keith morrison. >> reporter: the vigils. the reward. the facebook campaign. the flyers. the detective. all kept michelle's family busy and hopeful but had ultimately been unproductive. they were nowhere. and it was just at that point when marc klaas stepped into the life of the le family.
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>> i met the family in a dingy motel on the side of the freeway in hayward, california at about 11:00 o'clock in the morning, and they were all huddled inside this little room. to the le family, klaas was like the cavalry riding in. >> we were all in our pajamas, like disheveled. and we were all together on our laptops, trying to edit press releases, trying to organize all the interviews and -- reading the news, trying to talk to the police. >> and i looked around and i said, "the first thing you people need to do is get out of this room." >> dark and depressing? >> it was horrible. it was horrible. and they were so downtrodden. they had absolutely no idea of what to do or where to go. >> and he -- he sat down and gave us a list of what to do. we had to find a search center. we had to get volunteers. in ths
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cell phones buzzed and chirped all afternoon that day after michelle le vanished from sort of light. the watching web. he was just giving us all sorts certainly, her iphone hadn't of tips. vanished. one creepy text after another popped up in the phones of her >> reporter: it made a world of friends, her cousin, her a difference emotionally and on practical levels. brother. >> reporter: but what marc klaas "i just needed some time without didn't do was burden the le family with his own story, didn't tell them about his own anyone." "i had a bad night last night." daughter polly, kidnapped two decades ago. >> that was the worst time in my "i don't really want to talk to life. it shattered me. it shattered my heart. >> reporter: 12-year-old polly anyone right now." but then, after three hours of klaas was snatched from her room in petaluma, california in the midst of a slumber party. that, the texts stopped, just as polly's body was only discovered when her killer, arrested at a traffic stop two months later, suddenly as they had begun. showed detectives where he'd buried her. the last one simply said, "i'm >> do you still live that awful week? >> yeah. sick." so strange, so out of character. >> all these years later? >> my work is my therapy. my work is my therapy. to michelle's family and >> reporter: and that work -- friends, it seemed obvious, through the klaaskids someone had michelle's phone. foundation -- is to help someone who was not michelle. families find their missing >> the more that day went on, loved ones. by providing families with a now proven, professional, methodical approach to their search efforts. the more sinister it felt like it was becoming. >> you have to basically start >> sinister? >> having this person text back as michelle was just extremely, in the center and work your way extremely terrifying. >> what does that feel like to out, letting -- following statistics that the vast majority of people that are go through that? >> it's hard to put into words. missing are going to be found,
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a, within a half-mile radius of living nightmare, i think, is where they went missing or, b, the closest thing. >> a strange way, as chilling as these messages were, they gave where they went missing. >> boy, this is dismal work you michelle's friends and family do. some hope. to seem, it seemed obvious they >> it's not dismal. no, nothing that we do is were communicating with someone who had abducted michelle, so their mission was now clear. dismal. it's hard work. michelle didn't just need to be it can be heartbreaking. it can be so sad. found, michelle needed to be rescued. but it's not dismal. >> it's a time-critical it's really good work and it's situation. important work and there's just every second that you waste is a second that she's hurting. not enough people doing it. >> reporter: possibly because we had to find her. >> saturday afternoon, 18 hours it's work that lays bare wounds. after michelle vanished, michael hundreds of times now, since and a group of michelle's polly's death, marc has shared his experience, learned through friends met with inspector his own parental grief, with fraser ritchie at the hayward police department. families just like michelle's, >> we had about 10 or 15 family adrift and in shock. members and classmates and friends at the police and the first order of business, department. they were all talking about how said marc -- repair the responsible she was, how out of relationship with the police, character this would have been for her to just get up and which had become very frayed leave. >> did you try to call michelle indeed. or anything? >> yes? >> get a response? >> we needed help from the >> yes. police. and they slowly started to let
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i sent a message out. us know where they thought we should be looking. and when we pressed them, "why this is inspector ritchie of the should we be looking there? hayward police department. why should we be looking there?" they finally said, "well, you need to get ahold of me because that's where the cell right now. towers take us." >> yeah? >> i got the response within >> reporter: michelle le, it turns out, went on a strange several minutes saying that "my journey on the evening of may phone is dying, i need to find a 27th, 2011. or at least her cell phone did. charger. i'm having car trouble." >> the same sort of response in the two hours after michelle received by michelle's friends abruptly left a training session here at the kaiser hospital in and family who had now decided based on those weird text san francisco's east bay, that messages that michelle had been phone of hers left its indelible kidnapped. but as far as inspector ritchie footprints through the congested was concerned, just about anything was possible. streets of the east bay and then >> i kept an open mind. it turned onto a two-lane i didn't know whether michelle backroad and then a major freeway and then it pinged its voluntarily went missing for way right back along the very same route back to the parking lot at the very moment the whatever personal reasons she nursing instructor saw had or if this was a stranger abduction or if this was an abduction from somebody that she michelle's car drive into that knew or she just left with a parking lot, then rapidly reverse course and speed away friend. >> did anybody think she would into the dark. have just flipped out, stressed a puzzle. out, as they say, and just left. >> i had asked, is it possible but getting that cell phone trail from the police was also a she could just be out there, all huge break, said marc klaas, who stressed out? and they said, yes, it's was now deeply involved in the search for michelle. possible. >> inspector ritchie also asked >> it enabled us then to really if michelle had any enemies or
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hone in on what we needed to do problems with ex-boyfriends, for and why we needed to do it. example. >> the only problems that she seemed to be having with anybody it was to prepare viable search was coming from gisele esteban. locations for search teams. >> gisele esteban, one of >> reporter: but the area was vast. michelle's best friends in high school down in san diego. much of it rugged, rural. the search for michelle would be not just gisele's friend, but a tough, labor-intensive work. just the sort of thing marc klaas' organization knew how to do. friend of the family. >> when we saw the machine in gisele was a fixture around the motion was when we felt that, house and spend time with all of those cousins. then after high school in 2002, wow, this guy and this foundation has really got it together. the friends both mutual fund ov we would have never thought of that on our own. >> reporter: klaas even flew in francisco to attend college. and that's where gisele fell in his director of search operations, who was one of the love and got pregnant and moved first volunteers to look for in with her boyfriend, but then polly years before. broke up with him. the trouble comes after michelle >> we're going to be dealing stayed friends with that boyfriend, scott, after the with some pretty treacherous breakup. and that didn't sit well with gisele. though, really, it wasn't such a terrain today, as well as big deal. tomorrow. still, to cover all the bases, late saturday night ritchie canyon areas, lots of rocks into dropped in on gisele to ask what the ravines. she knew. >> we heard about michelle le.
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>> reporter: this was day >> who? >> michelle. >> oh, god, what about her? 49 since michelle disappeared. and once again her san diego >> she went missing last night relatives loaded into cars ay.m her work. around midnight and drove the 8 hours north to the san >> and talking to her friends francisco bay. "dateline" was there, watching, as they gathered for a morning briefing to prepare them for the and such, we understand that you long day of searching ahead. >> if you take nothing else away guys had a tumultuous from this presentation, take relationship? this portion right here, okay? >> a tumultuous relationship? every single search that we put you on today, tomorrow, we consider a potential crime she was my best friend who slept scene. with my then-fiance. >> reporter: the police >> i started talking to her and suggested a zone to be searched. asking her questions about her but that's all about all the information they provided. relationship with michelle and >> we don't know exactly why but if she could provide any information where she would be. they say it's based on all the evidence in their timeline, they >> gisele said she had no idea. believe that something might and besides, they weren't seeing each other these days, so she have happened in this area. >> reporter: the area -- a wouldn't know. then, just due diligence, that night, ritchie sent another team narrow canyon in the hills east of detectives to speak to of the san francisco bay. as the search party made its way gisele's ex-boyfriend, the up the canyon, they tied off, here and there, pink ribbons. father of their baby, who they >> we've got a system of tape marking that we use and we were interested to learn now had report in to the investigators and they follow up. everything we're doing here is sole custody of the child. to support the police effort in >> listening to him, talking to bringing back michelle. >> reporter: a complication -- him, and the relationship with this area is a haven for the
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him and his daughter and his homeless. family and things like that, he it's also a notorious dumping ground for murder victims. didn't seem to be the type of here, one of the searchers found person that could lie, that an encampment -- and inside, a would lie. >> by sunday, 48 hours after sleeping bag. michelle appeared in that ghostly video of the parking >> ian, do you want to check out lot, her largebegan arriving fr there's like a sleeping bag. and meeting with the police. and that's when detectives began to understand michelle a little. >> you want me to pull this bag how kind she was and bright and out? self-reliant. >> yeah. >> reporter: the bag was empty. very much like this young woman, but deeper inside the encampment something else was uncovered -- a large bone. this creek canyon, it soon phuong le, also a vietnamese became apparent, had been american, also a 20-something nursing student, also living in well-traveled by both creatures the san francisco area, who 13 months earlier, also great and small. disappeared. >> there's a lot of >> it's an animal, some mammal. similarities, also, in that she's the same age category, same ethnicity, same profession. >> even the same last name. was a pattern developing? >> reporter: but there was another bone at a creek >> coming up -- crossing. police look into the possible searchers had already passed it connection between those student nurses and a meeting between
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police and michelle's family. by when our producer noticed it >> and the asian families, when lying there. cow bone probably. you're younger, you're supposed and yet -- to be very respectful of the hierarchy in the family. >> where do you think it could you're not supposed to boss anybody around, but i was just be from? livid. >> we were horrified. >> when "vanished" continues. i. >> i'm not sure. >> when "vanished" continues i think i'll have ian come check it out. that does look like a thigh bone. a hip joint. hey, ian. come take a look at this for me. there's no other bones around it, which is kind of interesting. >> it's big. >> it's pretty big, huh? >> that's just a really big ball. looking at a bone from a large mammal. >> let's tag it and let's do a more thorough article search around here, just in case. and then we'll get somebody to get the gear. get the gear motor? nope. not motor? it's pronounced "motaur."
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just over a year before the difference of michelle le. it was close, perhaps 50 miles away, and it was so coincidental. another young nursing student, almost the same age, same ethnicity, even the same last name vanished from this shopping mall parking lot. her name, phuong le. police lieutenant greg herlbut caught the case, but couldn't find her. >> several weeks later, we got a call from a neighboring county saying that they had a body out in the woods that somewhat matched the description of our missing person. >> it was, indeed, phuong le. but that was, by no means, the end of the investigation. >> to this day, we're trying to identify who, in fact, killed phuong le. >> so during that memorial day weekend in 2011, when detective hurlbut heard about the disappearance of a young woman named michelle le, he wondered, was this a break in his case? >> you have someone that looks
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almost exactly the same, the same name, the same circumstances. it's a real bizarre coins den. >> michelle's family also heard about phuong le, so when they met with detectives for the first time, 48 hours after michelle's disappearance, they asked the dreadful question. could michelle's case be connected to the phuong le murder? >> the community thought that they might be linked, so we brought that up with the hayward police and they said, yeah, we looked into it, but we don't think there's any connection. >> so then there was a wash of relief. the detectives also told the family they'd found michelle's car, that it was locked, appeared undamaged. to the family, that was good news. it maintain to them that michelle must be alive, held somewhere. though during that sunday meeting, the police gave the impression they still had no idea what happened to michelle. >> they asked us a lot of questions about her relationships and her friendships and they told us
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they were working on it. >> we keep asking them, probing them for more information, and they just said, we can't tell you much. we're sorry. >> so your level of frustration must have been pretty high. >> it was sky high. >> the le family now had the impression that police weren't taking the case seriously at all. >> michelle was an adult, so we felt if she's an adult and she -- she's not a child, maybe she wasn't being prioritized. >> so what was it like leaving that meeting? >> it was chaos is probably the number one feeling. we didn't have a place to stay. we were hotel hopping. we were just waiting around most of the time, staying in the hotel. it was like you were blind. you didn't know -- we had no idea where to go, what to do. >> the family couldn't understand why the police seemed to be moving so slowly. in their minds, michelle was being held against her will. a week went by. saturday, june 4th, eight days after michelle's disappearance,
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her family held this vigil near the place where her car was found. >> we wanted the fbi to get involved and all of this and we were just making a lot of noise. >> quietly attending was scott, the young man the police had questioned a week earlier, giselle esteban's old boyfriend, remember, the father of her child. two days later, the family was called back to the police station for an important meeting. the police finally had a chance to search michelle's car. and the status of her case had been changed from missing person to homicide. and the family felt blindsided. >> they said, you know, i think you have to get comfortable with the fact that your sister is probably dead. we were horrified. >> and just like that, the information door closed. the hayward police told the family it was a murder investigation now, so department policy, they could reveal nothing more. and therefore couldn't or wouldn't tell the family why they thought michelle was dead.
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but without hearing an explanation or seeing any evidence, how could the family believe the police? now they simply wouldn't accept what the cops had to say. >> it was horrible. we were really angry, because, okay, you want to make it homicide, you're not going to tell us why. >> ritchie understand the family's anger, but as far as he was concerned, he had a murder investigation on his hands. and that meant the family had to be kept in the dark. >> there's certain procedural things that we have to keep close to us, that we can't put out there, because -- we have to maintain evidence and maintain the custody of certain information and it's of evidentiary value to us that if we don't have the suspect in custody, the only people that know about it is the suspect and us. >> in the absence of official information, the le family, at least its younger members, decided the only option was massive publicity. an appeal to the public for whatever help they could offer. but that was the kids, the
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cousins. family elders were deeply reluctant to share their grief with strangers. >> they didn't want her story out there, publicized like we had made it. >> why? >> it's very private. it was such a fine line between how much do you give away about your own family's misfortune to -- to do good for michelle. in asian families, when you're younger, you're supposed to be very, very respectful of the hierarchy in the family. you're not supposed to boss anybody around, but i was just livid. i was so angry. >> family elders knew far more about survival than most people ever knew. they were boat people, had been forced to flee vietnam after the war, very nearly perished in their open boat in the south china sea. and then they spent months in a refugee camp before being dropped in a land whose language and customs they did not know. and yet, before long, they
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embraced it all. big family celebrations at christmastime and easter and birthdays. they went on all-american vacations, like this one to the california coast. that's little michelle in the glasses. >> and here we are in santa barbara beach. we're having lots of fun. and here's my brother. >> they succeeded in america by doing what they had since their days of crisis on the south china sea. they stuck together. an epic, very american tale of grit and hope and self-reliance. lessons absorbed whole by their children. >> if i was missing and michelle was looking for me, she would, she would, you know, tear out heaven and earth, you know, to find me. and so i had to -- i had to fight for her. >> so it was the new generation, the american-born generation,
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that finally convinced the family it had to go public to put their story out in the press and on social hayward police department can offer conclusive and definite proof, otherwise we will continue to believe she's alive, michelle is still alive and needs to be rescued. >> we're going to find you and we're going to bring you home. >> two weeks to the day after michelle's disappearance, the family organized this vigil to make a public case that michelle was not dead. but instead, a kidnap victim, in urgent need of rescue. >> we're just focusing on getting her home and what we can do to get her home. >> i truly, truly believe that she's out there and we're going to find her. >> if michelle was going to be rescued, the family decide, it would be up to them to do it. >> but where was michelle? and who could have taken her?
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an outside investigator zeros in. coming up -- >> this is someone that michelle had some type of contact with. that saw her, that knew her, that knew where she parked her vehicle, knew what she drove, knew when she worked and knew when she would be at work. >> when "vanished" continues. k. >> when "vanished" continues and save in more ways than one. for small prices, you can build big dreams, spend less, get way more. shop everything home at
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i'm richard lui with your hour's top stories. mark esper addressed air strikes in iraq and syria sunday. the strikes targeted facilities
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tied to an iranian-backed militia, the same militia that's been blamed for a recent rocket attack on a u.s. military base that killed a civilian contractor and four service members. pompeo says the u.s. will not allow iran to take actions that put u.s. men and women in jeopardy. pompeo and esper made that address from trump's mar-a-lago resort, where pompeo said they were briefing the president on those air strikes. for now, back to "dateline." >> welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. ten days after michelle le disappeared, police changed the status of the case from missing person to homicide. why? detectives wouldn't say. without clear evidence, her family refused to give up hope that michelle was alive. they hired a private investigator and immediately, he unearthed an intriguing new clue. here again is keith morrison.
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>> what happened to michelle lem a well-lit parking garage under the protective watch of 18 su hayward police department went over this footage again and again. were they missing something? what happened in those minutes after michelle walked out of camera range and before her car went racing out of the garage? it was infuriating. there was one camera right above michelle's car that would have revealed everything. but that night, the camera wasn't working. what happened in those missing minutes mm the police remember talking to the family. so the family pursued its own line of investigation. >> we're looking to human trafficking patterns. >> human trafficking patterns? >> yeah. >> you thought that was a possibility? >> we did, yeah. >> but that was a dead end. then, 34 days into michelle's disappearance, the le family contacted us to say they'd begun working with a private
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investigator, a man named michael fromme. and in the midst of his investigation, fromme sat down with us to tell us what he had learned. >> this had happened quickly. this was a public parking garage. people come and go from that gram all night. someone was lying in wait. they knew that at some point she'd return to her vehicle. it was a number of hours before her shift was going to be over. and they were prepared to abduct her at that time. >> did anybody know why she went to her car? >> not that we know of at this time. >> unusual thing to do at this stage of the shift? >> i think it was either a quick break or something drew her out to her car that we still don't know. but she was still dressed in white hospital scrubs. it was evident that she was going to come back, because she left her belongings in the hospital. >> remember, though police found michelle's car about half a mile from the hospital parked and locked in a residential area, they hadn't revealed yet what evidence they'd found inside. but fromme had found out a thing or two about the car and how it got there.
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>> did anybody see the car arrive? >> there's a report of a witness who stated they heard nv headlights shining in their house and conversation coming from the car at about 4:00 the following morning. >> conversation? >> conversation. >> which would mean there's more than one person. >> the people that reported this saw headlights shining through their window and they believe it came from the general direction of where michelle's car was found. >> multiple kidnappers, almost had to be, said fromme. >> i think when you look at the circumstances in their totality, how this person was waiting for her and the fact that she was put into her vehicle, obviously, quickly and driven out quickly, that there may be the possibility of more than one person. >> and he was almost sure, not strangers. >> this is someone that michelle had some type of contact with, that saw her, that knew her, that knew where she parked her vehicle, knew what she drove, knew where she worked. knew when she'd be at work. >> so it may be members of her
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family or her friends, they already know who this is. i mean, they know the person who did it, just not be aware that they know. if they'd just looked through what those relationships were, the answer may be in there somewhere. >> the answer, i think, in this case, is not far off. >> the police had questioned michelle's family, current and former friends, old boyfriends. but it didn't seem like they were getting anywhere. fromme thought the investigation was in trouble. >> when your investigation has run cold, when you don't have a viable suspect, when you don't have information that's going to lead you to a suspect, i think it's important that you start looking at viable alternatives. too often, these cases go cold for five, ten years. from what we've seen so far, i think that was a possibility. >> the le family was working with fromme because they were frustrated with police. and how, fromme tried to do something that police couldn't. >> what we've done is put out information to anyone that may know something or potentially be involved or think that they know
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who's involved to call us confidentially, without contacting the police. and we'll provide that information to the right authorities and at the same time, protect these people if they need protection. >> soliciting tips from people who were afraid to call the cops. would his plan work? wait and see. >> "dateline" was there when that private tip line received a dramatic call. coming up -- >> what is this guy saying? what did he tell you? >> he said he has information to a potential site where michelle may be. >> would he lead them to michelle? when "vanished" continues. michelle when "vanished" continues. [farmers bell]
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we don't see who you're against, through or for,rs, whether tomorrow will be light or dark, all we see in you, is a spark we see your spark in each nod, each smile, we see sparks in every aisle. we see you find a hidden gem, and buying diapers at 3am. we see your kindness and humanity. the strength of each community. we've seen more sparks than we can say. about 20 million just yesterday. the more we look the more we find,
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