The name Richard Descoings may not ring a lot of bells in the United States, but the university head was a big deal in France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy paid homage to him after he died, suddenly and mysteriously tuesday in a Manhattan hotel room.

Police haven't ruled out foul play, and from the description at NBC New York, the scene sounds like something from the beginning of a mystery novel: The Michelangelo Hotel room in chaos, belongings mysteriously displaced, the possibility of mysterious visitors. According to NBC's Jonathan Dienst and Shimon Prokupecz:

One law enforcement official said the room appeared to be in disarray, though some of it may have been caused by EMT workers when they responded to aid Descoings. Additionally, some of Descoings' belongings were found on a third-floor landing of the hotel below his seventh-floor window, including an iPhone and a laptop.

Police sources said investigators are looking into whether one or two other men visited Decoings' room overnight.

Descoings, who headed the Paris Institute of Political Studies (known as Sciences Po) for 16 years, was in New York for a conference at Columbia University but he didn't show up for his Tuesday appearance, The Telegraph reports. Conference organizers called the police, who found him dead on Tuesday afternoon. Sarkozy described him as "a great public servant who dedicated his entire life to the cause he’d chosen: education."