French investigators launch probe into mysterious death

Two detectives and a magistrate judge, recently arrived from Paris, begin their investigation today into the suspicious death of a French-American citizen who was found dead last year in his blood-spattered Hayes Valley apartment.

The French investigators have been granted access to evidence in the case of Hugues de la Plaza’s death in an agreement with local authorities and the U.S. Department of Justice. San Francisco homicide detectives have also begun to dig deeper, reinterviewing neighbors and friends last week of the 36-year-old sound engineer who was found dead June 2, 2007.

But more than one year since The City’s homicide unit said de la Plaza committed suicide by stabbing himself in the chest, neck and stomach, little has changed in the status of the investigation. A medical examiner’s report released in January cast further doubt on the mystery, calling the manner of death “undetermined.”

When San Francisco investigators arrived to de la Plaza’s Linden Street apartment last year, they found both doors dead-bolted shut. Investigators concluded there was no way an intruder could have entered or left the apartment, and a surveillance camera didn’t record any suspects.

The weapon used in de la Plaza’s death also could not be found. A television and a broken wine glass were found on the floor. A note reading, “learn as if you were to live forever, live as if you were to die tomorrow,” was found next to his bloody laptop. The medical examiner’s report notes that several foreign hairs were found on de la Plaza’s hands.

Those clues have been the impetus for friends such as Melissa Nix to pressure authorities to consider de la Plaza’s death a homicide. The parents of the victim have already hired a private investigator and have enlisted the help of several experts.

“We hope someone can run the necessary tests to solve this case,” Nix said. “San Francisco police keep telling us they can’t afford to expend the resources to do any further tests.”

San Francisco homicide Inspector Antonio Casillas declined to comment on the case Sunday, but a police representative said the San Francisco Police Department will cooperate in full with the French investigation.

French authorities aren’t the only ones responding to the case. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is expected to attend a march Saturday to call on police to look into de la Plaza’s death. Dozens of supporters will start at the Hall of Justice at 6 p.m. and walk to City Hall and then de la Plaza’s Hayes Valley apartment for a candlelight vigil.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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