French detectives try to solve SF murder


Hugues La Plaza was found dead a year ago and the case has stalled, largely because of a huge difference of opinion about how he may have died.

The French are issuing subpoenas to many of the victim's friends. They are trying to gather as much testimony as they can. They will be in San Francisco for several days and will work with homicide detectives at the Hall of Justice.

It's not everyday that you see a judge and detectives fly in from France to launch an investigation on American soil. But this case involves the mysterious death of a man with dual French-U.S. citizenship.

Hugues De La Plaza was found dead in his San Francisco apartment almost exactly one year ago.

The 36-year-old died from multiple stab wounds to the chest. His friends say the city's homicide detectives told them it was probably a suicide because the apartment doors were locked -- a theory they find absurd.

"You don't kill yourself by stabbing yourself three times. You don't do that where is the knife, there is no weapon," said the victim's friend Christophe Schuhmann

Schumann and other friends believe the SFPD bungled the case and they say it was pressure from them, the victim's family and the work of a private investigator that's brought the French authorities to town.

"That we had to go to these lengths to get a murder looked at, I'm just beyond angry and it's inexcusable," said the victim's girlfriend Melissa Nix.

The death took place in supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's district. In a hearing at City Hall on Monday, he put homicide detectives on the hot seat.

"We have the French government now intervening. This seems highly irregular," said Mirkarimi. "There are so many people outraged by the level of investigation and maybe it's incomplete way of even getting to the basic facts. Is it a homicide or a suicide?"

It is an undetermined death according to Police Chief Heather Fong. At a news conference on Monday afternoon with the French detectives, the chief said their involvement does not show a lack of confidence in the SFPD.

"The French authorities are not here to take over the investigation. They are here to look at the investigation side by side," said Fong.

The French judge, similar to a DA in the U.S., also emphasized cooperation.

"When more people are working there's more intelligence walking," said French judge Brigitte Joulivet.

Just now a year after the unsolved death, San Francisco Police are apparently just getting around to interviewing some of the victim's neighbors.

"Just last week, I mean they might have talked to other people in the neighborhood, our building is directly next door and I know they didn't talk to anyone in our building," said the victim's neighbor Trina Hancock.

De la Plaza's friends will hold a vigil in his honor on Saturday night.

Saturday, June 14, 2008
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Hall of Justice
850 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA

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