Did the beautiful young girlfriend of a pharmaceuticals millionaire take her own life, or was she murdered?
The family of 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau contends her boyfriend’s brother, Adam Shacknai, killed the woman, who was found naked, with her hands and feet bound, hanging from the second-floor balcony of Jonah Shacknai’s California mansion.
Her 2011 death was first considered a homicide. But after a long investigation, San Diego County Sheriff’s investigators ruled her hanging was a suicide.
A wrongful death suit filed by members of her family began this week in a downtown San Diego courtroom.
“My sister was murdered,” Mary Zahau-Loehner testified Wednesday. “It is pretty obvious she was murdered.”
Authorities said Zahau took her own life because she was devastated by the death of her boyfriend’s 6-year-old son, Max, who fell from the mansion’s massive stair case and suffered major head trauma. She was in charge at the sprawling home when the boy fell.
Her family alleges she was struck on the head, strangled, stripped nude, and tossed off the balcony by Adam Shacknai with a rope around her neck.
“There is no evidence Adam Shacknai did any of those things,” the defendant’s lawyer, Dan Webb, said in court. “I believe there will be a complete failure of proof in this case.”
In a video, sheriff’s detectives demonstrated how Zahau tied knots around her feet and hands, placed the noose around her neck and threw herself over the balcony. A piece of rope was still clutched in her hands after she died, and a coroner said that was how she was able to tighten her bindings.
Her body was found by Adam Shacknai. He called 911 at 6:48 a.m., saying he had just found her swinging from the balcony. He got a kitchen knife, shoved a table under her body and cut her down while on the phone with an emergency operator.