The Trail Went Cold – Episode 25 – Hugues de la Plaza

June 2, 2007. San Francisco, California. Hugues de la Plaza, a 36-year old sound engineer with dual French and American citizenship, returns to his apartment after spending the evening at a club. When morning hits, Hugues is found stabbed to death. Since a security camera shows no one else heading in the direction of Hugues’ apartment that night, police explore the possibility that Hugues committed suicide and his death is classified as “undetermined”. However, Hugues’ family discover disturbing discrepancies which point to murder, so they are forced to bring in the National Police from France to seek justice for his death. In this week’s episode of “The Trail Went Cold”, we examine a very controversial case which prompted an international police force to take over an American investigation.

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

8 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 25 – Hugues de la Plaza

  • Your theory that he was attacked by a romantic connection is definitely plausible, but I lean more towards attempted home invasion from some random thug from the dangerous neighborhood across the street.

    What I think happened is that random thug knocks on his door, he opens, thug lunges at him with a knife, they struggle, he manages to push the thug back out his doorway and lock it again, but not before getting stabbed. He collapses and dies, and the thug wanders away.

    This seems more likely than a jealous husband or ex girlfriend attacking him. While people do get killed for their romantic activities, much more people are killed by street criminals.

    The main objection to this theory is that he wouldn’t have opened his door to a stranger, but remember first of all that he was drunk, and most likely not in a good decision making frame of mind, which the attacker would have picked up on. The second thing, and I think this is much more interesting, is that he isn’t American. He comes from a country where violent crime is far lower than it is here, which would mean that when someone knocked on his door it didn’t even occur to him that it could be a violent attacker. Lastly, I would bet the criminal used some sort of pretext to get him to open the door, like asking for directions or pretending to be a repairman or something like that.

    • That’s a good point about Hugues not being American and not as cautious about violent crime. In fact, his friends apparently expressed their concern about him walking home from the club through a bad neighbourhood that night, but he seemed unphased. While I still lean towards the romantic revenge theory, I certainly can’t rule out the possibility that it could have been a random attack from some street criminal, in which case, would make the case a lot more difficult to solve.

      It recently occurred to me that have never publicly revealed whether the DNA found on Hugues’ wristwatch was male or female. If it was female, they might be leaning towards more the theory that he was murdered by a jilted lover.

  • Very interesting episode! You mentioned the San Francisco police department possibly listing his death as “undetermined” to fudge the numbers a bit, sadly they seem to still have a problem with this. Recent investigations into their crime reporting practices found multiple issues with this, like: not providing the data to the public at all, having two sets of crime data for the same year, or providing very vague and incomplete crime statistics to the public.

  • To be fair to the police, San Francisco is one of the most liberal leaning cities in the United States, and liberals tend to see the police more as an enemy of the people than anything else, and have lots of excessive rules restricting very tightly what they are allowed to do in the enforcement of the law. So if they are not doing their job well, it’s probably down to the politicians in charge of the police department, including the chief of police and the mayor, rather than that the officers themselves happen to be incompetent or corrupt. They have to work within a set of rules that are given to them by the politicians, so the politicians must ultimately bear the blame for the results.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of the most liberal cities in America has one of the least successful police forces.

  • The theories about the killer being a lover or the spouse of a lover or a random street thug are very plausible, but so is another theory. While I was listing I keep thinking about the fact that he just got a job promotion. I am guessing that he was not the only one who was up for the promotion that Hugues received. Often there is a lot of competition for promotions and feelings can get hurt when you don’t get the promotion that you taught you deserved. Could it be that Hugues got the promotion over someone else and that person felt that Hugues did not deserve it as much as they did and decided to enact revenge? Did the French authorities look into the people he worked with and the person who got the promotion after Hugues was killed?

  • Your comment about SFPD writing off all murders as suicides if only possible really hit home. In 2004, a dear family friend was thrown off his apartment’s window on the 8th floor to the street below. Naked and wet from the shower. The apartment door was open! He paid his rent that morning and made plans to meet with his daughter later that day… He also complained about drug activity in that building. His death was written off as suicide and never investigated at all.

  • While it’s entirely possible that the perpetrator was a jilted ex-lover or jealous third party to one of Hugues hookups, it also could have been someone who followed him home (or had been casing him over some time, noticing him coming home alone late at night like that) and tried to rob him, but Hugues, who did have martial arts knowledge, fought him off long enough that the person took off figuring it wasn’t worth it. They didn’t have to have intimate knowledge of the surveillance to see the cameras and deliberately avoid them.

    I came home at 3AM from a party once, dropped off right in front of my place, and a crazy looking transient saw me and ran up to my door just as I got it open. Luckily there’s a gate in front of the door that he thought was locked so he didn’t try to open it or I might not have been able to slip inside my door in time. Random events are unlikely, but not impossible.

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