Bloody shoeprints and stab wounds suggest de la Plaza murdered

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Text by Sarah Phelan

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A newly released forensic report suggests that Hugues de la Plaza (pictured above) was murdered in San Francisco two years ago.

Francois de la Plaza, the father of deceased French-American citizen Hugues de la Plaza, sent me a copy of a report today that forensic pathologist Michael Ferenc prepared for SFPD Deputy Chief David Shinn, concluding that Hugues’s death was a homicide, as his family and the French authorities have long claimed.

“In my opinion, the death of Mr. Hugues de la Plaza is a homicide,” Ferenc writes in his report, which was prepared nine months ago, (and not in Feb. 2008, as the Guardian initially claimed, thanks to a typo on the report itself). Curiously, the SFPD has never publicized Ferenc's findings, even though it has divulged preliminary findings from an as yet unpublished LAPD report, which allegedly supports the SF Medical Examiner's finding that the cause of death was "undeterminable."

Ferenc notes that SFPD Inspector Casillas gave him, “an excellent overview of the case" when he met with him and his colleagues," earlier this year.

" It was very thorough and detailed," Ferenc writes.

In his report, he summarizes several key points that support his murder conclusion, (based on his review of the SFPD’s crime scene photos, video and autopsy report.), before inferring, Sherlock Holmes-style, the following sequence of events:

“Mr. De La Plaza returned home from nightclubbing around 0200 hours and entered his residence,” Ferenc states. “There he ate some food and apparently made phone calls and utilized his computer (approximately during the next half hour based upon Inspector Casillas’s investigation). For some reason(s) he exited his apartment ( or at least stepped outside to answered his door). Either upon exiting or at his subsequent return, an assailant(s), who was(were) most likely positioned on the lower landing of the stair case, stabbed Mr. De La Plaza while he was on the lower steps. The victim retreated inside the apartment and the assailant(s) probably did not follow inside. The victim went to the kitchen and returned to the front room bleeding profusely all the time. He soon collapsed from hemorrhagic shock in the front room where he was found.”

To support his conclusions, Ferenc highlights the following key points:

1.The stab wound at the base of de la Plaza’s neck.

“As you know, this unfortunate gentleman suffered three stab wounds and was found dead inside his secure residence the morning of 06/02/2007,” Ferenc observes. “ Extensive blood pattern evidence was seen throughout several of the rooms and on the front door stair area/sidewalk. Of the three stab wounds, the stab wound to the left base of the neck that transected the left subclavian vessels (a large artery and a large vein beneath the collarbone) and penetrated the lung was undoubtedly the most significant injury. Almost certainly, it was the source for most of the bloodshed seen and copious bleeding from this wound would be immediate or almost immediate. Once this particular injury was inflicted, this gentleman likely would exsanguinate and expire in a matter of a minute or two.”

2. The trial of bloody shoe prints

“The bloodshed evidence begins on the front door steps and sidewalk,” Ferenc notes. “Only one trail of dripped blood (the pattern indicates rapid, fairly active flow that in some areas in the scene rises to the level that one might expected with projected blood) is seen from the stairs to the front door. Although, throughout the interior scene the decedent’s own bloody shoeprints are seen, none are seen outside consistent with the decedent’s shoes not yet having walked through his own blood (If this gentleman had inflicted his own wounds in the kitchen area at the other end of the apartment and had walked bleeding to the front door, then one would expect bloody shoe prints and two trails of blood on the outside stairs and landing. Instead blood shoeprints and two trails of blood are seen in the kitchen and hallway indicating a single roundtrip into and out of the kitchen after his soles are bloodstained.). On the concrete wall adjacent to the stair case landing are occasional smaller drops of blood consistent with cast off from the arm movements of a knife being plunged and removed from the decedent."

"The presence of bloody shoeprints consistent with the decedent’s shoes and the absence, on the front stairs and/or front door verge, of expected bloody shoeprints that could belong to an assailant(s) strong suggests to me that his attacker(s) did not follow him back into his apartment," Ferenc observes. " (However, several photographs of the front room indicate that some items have moved. If the movement of these items is not attributable to emergency responders, then it would suggest that someone else moved things after bloodshed).”

3. The blood alcohol level

"Toxicology revealed only alcohol in the blood (0.11 g/dL) and the vitreous humor (0.10 g/dL)," Ferenc reports. "The relative levels in the blood and vitreous humor suggest that the decedent had not yet reached complete absorption/equilibration of alcohol (or that he was continuing to ingest alcohol after arriving home) indicating his death was soon after he returned home. "

4. Amount of peas in stomach.

“His stomach contents consisted of a little over 3 ounces of material including peas," Ferenc observes. "On the kitchen countertop was a plate of rice and peas. There is no reason to believe this gentleman had delayed gastric emptying thus suggesting that after returning to his apartment, he had at least briefly begun to eat."

Presumably, all Ferenc's conclusions will be laid out on CBS’ upcoming Nov. 14 48 Hours show about the case.

Because, aside from the fact that Ferenc’s conclusions are at odds with the “underminable” finding of SF Medical Examiner Dr. Venus Azar, they raises an intensely uncomfortable set of questions for the SFPD and SF residents:

If Hugues de la Plaza was murdered, then why?

Was it a crime of passion, perhaps on the part of the partner of one of the many women that the ever amorous de la Plaza had, allegedly, been meeting and seeing in the months prior to his death?

Was there some other motive, such as a need for cash? (Police reports show that some valuable silverware was missing from de la Plaza's apartment when his body was found.)

Or was it an unprovoked attack? And if so, could it be connected to any other random killings, especially stabbings, that have happened in San Francisco over the past few years?

Because if de la Plaza was murdered, then his killer could still be walking the streets of San Francisco—or some other US city or town--with blood on his or her hands. And that's not a comforting thought for any of us.