SAN DIEGO - The mother of a 14-year-old Escondido girl slain 2 1/2 years ago was the person who found the remains of a missing 26-year-old nursing student and presumed murder victim last weekend in a rugged San Francisco Bay-area canyon, police disclosed Tuesday.
Carrie McGonigle, whose daughter, Amber Dubois, was missing for 13 months before her body was discovered last year, came across the skeletal remains of former San Diego resident Michelle Le in the Pleasanton-Sunol area on Saturday, said Lt. Roger Keener, a spokesman for the Hayward Police Department.
A volunteer search team that McGonigle founded following the slaying of her daughter had been helping search for Le, who disappeared in late May. McGonigle's year-old yellow Labrador, named Amber in honor of the slain Escondido High School freshman, led her to Le's remains, according to Keener.
"I got her when she was four months old. I trained with a certified rescue trainer down in San Diego," said McGonigle.
It's been emotional for McGonigle who at first said she wasn't expecting to go out and join search crews, she said. She changed her mind, and said that "Amber" was very excited about heading out.
"This experience has made me come to terms with my own fear," said McGonigle."The fear that I could not handle an experience likes this. "
McGonigle's labrador isn't yet a certified cadaver dog. McGonigle has only had the dog for about six months.She said during the search, "Amber" went running down a dirt path, which eventually lead to Michelle's remains.
Early this month, a former friend of Le's, 27-year-old Giselle Esteban, was arrested and charged with murdering her. Prosecutors contend that Esteban attacked Le in the parking garage of the hospital where the victim was doing a clinical rotation.
Esteban allegedly blamed Le for ruining her relationship with her ex- boyfriend, Scott Marasigan, who had fathered a child with the suspect.
Three days prior to Le's disappearance, Marasigan filed a restraining order against Esteban, describing her behavior as volatile and threatening.
Police said transmission signals from Le's and Esteban's cell phones led them to search the canyon where the remains ultimately were found.
Le was a student at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland. She and Esteban had attended Mount Carmel High School in Rancho Penasquitos.
McGonigle's teenage daughter was walking to school on Feb. 13, 2009, when then-29-year-old registered sex offender John Albert Gardner III abducted and raped her, then stabbed her to death and buried her in a shallow grave in the Pala area.
Just over a year later, Gardner grabbed 17-year-old Poway High School senior Chelsea King as she jogged at a Rancho Bernardo Park. Gardner raped and strangled her, then stashed her body near Lake Hodges, where a search-team member found it five days later.
As part of a plea deal that spared him from a possible death sentence, Gardner admitted to both murders and was sentenced to two life terms with no chance for parole.