New York City police are investigating the puzzling sudden death of the director of an elite French university. Police say the initial investigation found no evidence of obvious foul play, but the medical examiner's report is yet to be concluded.
The naked body of Richard Descoings, 53, was found by hotel staff in his room at the Michelangelo Hotel on Tuesday afternoon.
Descoings was the head of the prestigious Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Paris Institute of Political Studies), known as Sciences-Po.
Descoings was in New York attending a U.N.-sponsored conference of university directors at Columbia University. His colleagues became suspicious when he did not show up for the conference, and telephoned the Michelangelo Tuesday morning.
The hotel had checked earlier in the morning at 9, and he was asleep. At 1 he was dead, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said Tuesday.
Detectives do not suspect that anyone forcibly entered Descoings' room, nor were there visible indicators of trauma to the body, Browne added.
Empty alcohol bottles and prescription medication were found in the room, and Descoings' cellphone and laptop computer were found on a ledge several stories below.
Students at Sciences-Po held a memorial service on Wednesday, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy was moved to comment.
Descoings' leadership at Sciences-Po was a historic turning point in awareness of scandalous social elitism in France, France 24 quoted Sarkozy as saying.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon remembered Descoings as a global leader on education policy, recognized and honored both in France and around the world for his contributions to research and policy.
Descoings was known for making French higher education more accessible for international students and minorities. But he was harshly criticized when it was revealed that he earned 24,000 euros ($32,000) per month, almost five times what most university heads earn in France.
The inquiry into Descoings' death is the second New York City police investigation of events surrounding a prominent Frenchman in the past year.
Dominique Strauss-Khan, then head of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested last May after a hotel chambermaid accused him of sexual assault. Charges against Strauss-Khan were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.