The Chronicle and ABC7 are reporting that a team of Los Angeles investigators brought in to assist with the investigation of Hugues de la Plaza’s death are backing the conclusion reached by San Francisco officials that de la Plaza killed himself.
De La Plaza’s body was found back in 2007, but police quieted the investigation shortly thereafter. Thankfully our friends at SF Weekly did a superb job sticking with the case as officials tried to look the other way.
The article, among other things, highlights the strong divide between San Francisco and French investigators brought in by the victim’s family, who determined the death was a homicide. In their defense, San Francisco investigators pointed to lack of struggle, no calls to 911, and a recently washed steak knife as evidence that de la Plaza stabbed himself.
If that is really the case, we shouldn’t be asking ourselves if de la Plaza was the type of man who would commit suicide, but whether he was the type of person who would wash his own suicide weapon as he slowly bled to death.
While conducting their investigation, the LAPD found serious flaws in the manner San Francisco handled the case. Flaws so serious that some people believe the case might never be solved as a result.
The Chronicle reports that “communications breakdowns at the death scene led to loss of possible evidence including blood spatters that might have indicated whether de la Plaza stabbed himself, or was killed.”
Lt. Mike Stasko said that due to these criticisms, San Francisco is looking into the way it solves cases
San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon ordered the outside review in an attempt to placate the controversy surrounding the death of de la Plaza. Now it appears he may have unintentionally refueled the fire.
Melissa Nix, a former girlfriend of De La Plaza, told the Guardian that “it’s a cynical decision that’s meant to silence critics. How How can they explain that a man kill himself when there is no weapon. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
“San Francisco can’t be the kind of city where you murder someone and get away with it,” she added.
Marin Thompson, a friend of de la Plaza, and one of the last people to see him alive, told ABC7 that “It just seems they were covering things up, like they’re taking care of their own.”
Its certainly worthy of consideration. If the San Francisco Police Department botched the investigation as the LAPD attests, this might be sufficient cause to compel them to cover up the details. But what would LAPD have to gain by ruling de la Plaza’s death a suicide as well? Is this a tragic death, or an indicator of some serious problems in the way California investigates homicides?