LAPD looks at French national's death

September 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
There are new developments revealed in a mysterious death in San Francisco that has created an international controversy. San Francisco Police were criticized for calling the stabbing death of a French national a suicide, but now the Los Angeles Police Department is backing up that conclusion.

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Nevertheless, this is not what the family wanted to hear. They point to the French authorities who conducted their own review last year in San Francisco and arrived at a different conclusion, saying it appears to be murder. Instead of cooling down the controversy, these L.A.P.D. findings appear to be fueling it even more.

Hugues de la Plaza was found dead of stab wounds June 2, 2007 at his apartment in Hayes Valley. Police say the door was locked. There was no sign of a break-in. Investigators believe he died sometime between 2 and 4 a.m.

Marin Thompson was a friend who told ABC7, they were hanging out with other friends that night at The Underground -- a San Francisco bar on Haight Street. Thompson says they closed the bar at 2 a.m. She adds he didn't act like someone who would kill himself just hours later.

"He was in a great mood. We were hanging out. We were having a great time, laughing," said Thompson.

That's why she and other friends cannot believe investigators from the L.A.P.D. agree with San Francisco Police that de la Plaza probably committed suicide.

"It just seems they were covering things up, like they're taking care of their own," said Thompson.

SFPD investigators found three knives at his home, but not a bloody one. They believe de la plaza may have washed the knife as he bled to death. The outside detectives were brought in by new San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon, who was once L.A.P.D.'s assistant chief. Gascon told ABC7 he has yet to review their findings, but hopes it will finally put the controversy to rest.

"I wanted a neutral third party that was professionally recognized and have the credibility to come in without any personal biases and look at this investigation," said Gascon.

The L.A.P.D. review did find problems with San Francisco's investigation and because of those flaws, determined that the case may never be solved. Lt. Mike Stasko is head of homicide.

"There were a couple of things that were missed during the investigation. There were certain things we should have maybe on hindsight should have grabbed, but we didn't," said Lt. Mike Stasko, the head of homicide at the San Francisco Police Department.

Stasko says homicides are now investigated differently with more resources than before and that this is still an open case. The bottom line is only San Francisco's medical examiner Venus Azar can determine cause of death, but Azar says in this case, she's unable to come to a conclusion.

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