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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

S.F. Investigators Explain Why Hugues de la Plaza's Cause of Death Remains 'Undetermined'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 7:30 AM


In mid-September, attendees at the annual meeting of the National Association of Medical Examiners got to see a detailed, audio-visual presentation aiming to explain why the bizarre 2007 death of French immigrant Hugues de la Plaza was not ruled a murder -- despite protests of friends, family, and French investigators that this was a clear case of homicide. 

SF Weekly was there with a video camera. The resulting online video marks the first time San Francisco investigators gave an in-depth, public description of their version of the case.

In the above scene, San Francisco Medical Examiner's office forensic pathologist Venus Azar and San Francisco Police Department homicide inspector Antonio Casillas make a presentation called called "A Disturbing Case: Suicide or Homicide: A Team Approach."

Note: Though the camera is pointed at a slide show of crime scene photographs assembled by Azar, the tape's real value is in the two investigators' verbal explanations. The video images of the slide show are too distant and out-of-focus to convey significant information.


In November, the de la Plaza case will be the subject of a CBS 48 Hours episode, as well as of an in-depth French documentary scheduled to run in various European markets the same month. The documentaries pit explanations by the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office, and the San Francisco Police Department's homicide division, against those of French forensic experts who examined the evidence after obtaining a court order.

"After watching the show, our audience will be much better able to develop their own position on this story, whether they side with the San Francisco Police Department, or they think it is murder," said 48 Hours producer Josh Gelman.

SF Weekly readers can get a jump on the action by reading SF Weekly's coverage of the case, then listening to the investigators' presentation.


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Matt Smith

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