French sleuths granted access for interviews

Interview requests from French authorities now in San Francisco inquiring about the mysterious death of a French-American citizen were approved and delivered Monday through numerous subpoenas from the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Hugues de la Plaza, a 36-year-old sound engineer, was discovered dead June 2, 2007, in his blood-spattered Hayes Valley apartment. Homicide investigators and an assistant medical examiner were called to the scene about 8:30 a.m. after a neighbor reported blood on the porch and doorknob outside of the apartment.

The French investigators, Fabian Charry and Patrice Reiller, as well as French Criminal Judge Brigitte Jolivet, arrived in San Francisco on June 7 and were granted access to evidence in de la Plaza’s death in an agreement with local authorities and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The French delegation began their investigation Monday morning at the Hayes Valley apartment where de la Plaza was found dead.

Under the diplomatic agreement, all interviews are being conducted with the federal courts involved. Among those subpoenaed were de la Plaza’s close friends, Melissa Nix and Christophe Schuhmann, as well as the owner of the nightclub Underground SF, one of the last places where de la Plaza was seen alive.

Police Chief Heather Fong said San Francisco police have been cooperating fully with the investigation, adding that “French authorities, however, have not assumed and will not assume the lead investigation of this case.”

Although family and friends of de la Plaza say police did not pursue the case as a homicide, but rather seemed to conclude it was a suicide. On Monday, San Francisco police Deputy Chief David Shinn defended homicide detectives, saying they never told anyone that the death was considered a suicide.

The theory, however, has never been ruled out, and the manner of death is still officially deemed “undetermined,” say authorities.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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