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
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."