Father of Hugues de la Plaza Says SFPD Now Considers Case a Murder -- Two Years Later

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi addresses the media as François de la Plaza (right) listens in.
After nearly two years of pitching François de la Plaza scenarios in which his son, Hugues, stabbed himself three times and then washed the knife or threw it away to never be recovered, the visiting Frenchman informed a crowd of reporters this afternoon  that the San Francisco Police Department has told him they finally agree that his son was murdered.

At a Wednesday meeting with SFPD officials "[Capt. David Lazar] told us they now agree this is a homicide case not a suicide case," the elder de la Plaza said through a translator at the City Hall press conference.  

French dual citizen Hugues de la Plaza was found dead in his blood-stained Hayes Valley apartment in June of 2007 with a stab wound to his throat and two to his torso. Though no bloody knife was found in the apartment, the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office -- after an eight-month delay -- ruled the cause of death  "undetermined," leaving the door open for the SFPD's pet theory of suicide. Late last year, a high-ranking police official told SF Weekly's John Geluardi, "We're certain the suicide theory will pan out." Apparently not. Last year, French police acting under a federal court order carted the evidence back to Paris. Top French medical examiners last month released a report unambiguously stating that de la Plaza was murdered.

François de la Plaza went on to officially offer the $100,000 reward -- drawn from his son's life insurance policy -- for information leading to the arrest of his son's killer SF Weekly wrote about last month -- but said he was "appalled" that foreign police, media coverage, and the promise of money were necessary to spur action on the case. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi ominously noted that a dozen outstanding murder cases have had city-sponsored rewards of between $100,000 to $250,000 attached to them -- yet not one has garnered results.
On the eve of the press conference, the SFPD released a statement stressing that the Medical Examiner's office, not the police, were the ones who classified de la Plaza's death "undetermined" and that the SFPD "handles and investigates all 'undetermined' deaths as if they were homicides." The release lamented that the department had not yet received the French report and claimed its investigation was not "lackluster."

Melissa Nix, a former girlfriend of Hugues de la Plaza who has spearheaded efforts to publicize his case, eviscerated the SFPD statement as "a semantics game." She noted that the last person known to speak to de la Plaza called the SFPD repeatedly before the police deigned to speak to him five days later. The last person de la Plaza called on the phone was not interviewed for two weeks, despite frequent calls to the SFPD. Neighbors who reported the door repeatedly slamming at around 2:30 a.m. were given the brush-off. She also said the SFPD did not attempt to access de la Plaza's cell phone or computer -- this, along with many interviews and DNA testing, was left to the French authorities. Finally, Nix claimed that, as of Feb. 20, the French authorities had no record of the SFPD requesting the report on de la Plaza's death. "If they have investigated this case, I'd hate to see one they decline to investigate," she said.

Sgt. Lyn Tomioka, a police spokeswoman, told SF Weekly that the French death report had been requested, but she was unsure how or when. All other queries about the de la Plaza case were referred back to yesterday's press release.

Mirkarimi summed up the police's posture as a defensive display of semantics: "Hugues de la Plaza's death has enver been listed as a homicide and during my briefings with police it has never once been referred to as such. Obviously it took outside pressure to get clarity on what occured -- which is murder."

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