(CBS) OAKLAND, Calif. - Opening statements began Monday in the trial of Giselle Esteban, who is accused of murdering her former friend and California nursing student Michelle Le. Le disappeared in May of 2011 and was found dead four months later.
Esteban's defense lawyer, Andrea Auer, didn't deny the prosecution's allegation that the Union City woman killed Le, who she had known since high school, CBS San Francisco reports. Auer admitted there was "a mountain of evidence" against her 28-year-old client, but told jurors she doesn't think it will prove that Esteban committed first- or second-degree murder.
Despite evidence showing that Esteban talked about killing Le as early as Nov. 19, 2010, Auer reportedly said Esteban didn't premeditate killing Le but instead acted "out of extraordinary provocation and the heat of passion."
Prosecutor Butch Ford contended that Esteban killed Le out of "jealousy, hatred and rage" because she blamed Le for ruining her relationship with Scott Marasigan, her daughter's father.
According to CBS San Francisco, Ford says Marasign had dated Le for about a month before he began dating Esteban. Esteban and Marasigan lived together for a time but had a rocky relationship and eventually broke up. Esteban became jealous because Marasigan remained friends with Le and saw her occasionally.
"Esteban believed there was a love triangle but there was no such thing. Scott and Michelle were just friends," Ford said.
The prosecutor said Esteban went to extraordinary lengths to hunt Le down, including using false names to obtain information about Le from staff members at the nursing school she attended, CBS San Francisco reports.
Auer reportedly said the situation was more complex than simple jealousy, saying Estaban became unstable after losing custody of her daughter to Marasigan. Esteban also believed Marasigan may have been the father of a second child she had in November 2011, but Marasigan said he did not think he was.
Esteban's trial is expected to last about a month.