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Questions Surround Death Of Renowned French Academic At NYC Hotel

NYPD Trying To Unravel The Mystery Of What Happened To Richard Descoings
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Head of Paris Institute for Political Studies Richard Descoings seen on June 2, 2009 in Paris. (Photo credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Head of Paris Institute for Political Studies Richard Descoings seen on June 2, 2009 in Paris. (Photo credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police said Wednesday they’ve found no signs of foul play during an initial investigation into the death of a prominent political scholar from France whose body was found inside a hotel room in the heart of Midtown.

The body of Richard Descoings was found on the 7th floor of the Michelangelo Hotel around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The 53-year-old prominent French professor from Paris was in New York attending a conference at Columbia University, but when he didn’t show up, colleagues called the hotel where he was staying.

Security staff knocked on his door around 10 a.m. and believed they heard him snoring. But when they checked back several hours later, Descoings was dead, found naked in his bed.

Sources tell CBS 2’s Chris Wragge alcohol and prescription drugs were found in his room, but it’s unclear what kind. Descoings’ cell phone and laptop had been tossed out the 7th floor window.

Police initially suspected robbery when they found the room in complete disarray, but later learned EMS workers made the mess while frantically pulling Descoings from the bed trying to revive him.

Police said they’ve so far found no evidence that his hotel room had been broken into and said there are no clear signs of trauma to his body.

Descoings’ sudden death is creating shock waves around the globe. World leaders from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon are mourning his death, calling Descoings an extraordinary visionary and a pioneer.

“He was a global leader on education policy, recognized and honoured both in France and around the world for his contributions to research and policy,” Ki-Moon and Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger said in a joint statement. “Our hearts and condolences go out to the Descoings family and many friends, and to the entire Sciences Po community.”

Descoings was also mired in controversy. French newspapers attacked his high salary, paid for by the citizens of France.

Police are continuing their investigation, but the prevailing theory right now is either some medical episode, or another, non-criminal cause of death.

The medical examiner is expected to rule on an official cause of death in the next few days.

Descoings served as the director of the Paris Institute of Political Studies and was one of Sarkozy’s closest advisors, widely credited with radically changing France’s education system.

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