Dead CEO Girlfriend Death Ruled Suicide

Dead CEO Girlfriend Death Ruled Suicide

September 2nd, 2011 // 12:37 pm @

Investigators have concluded that a woman found dead, hanging naked and bound at a historic Coronado, Calif., mansion in July, killed herself, the sister of the victim said Thursday.

Rebecca Zahau was found dead, naked, hanging with her hands and feet bound, at a mansion in Coronado, Calif.

An attorney for the victim’s family blasted the finding as “ridiculous.”


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Mary Zahau-Loehner, the sister of Rebecca Zahau, 32, who died in one of two mysterious tragedies within a few days at the $12 million oceanfront mansion, said she disagreed with investigators and was disappointed with the conclusion.


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Anne Bremner, a Seattle lawyer hired by the Zahau family this week, said the San Diego Sheriff’s Department’s finding “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore scheduled a news briefing Friday with his investigators, medical examiners and Coronado police to report on their investigation into the deaths at the Spreckels mansion in the wealthy resort community near San Diego.

Zahau, who came to this country about a decade ago from Burma, was found hanging from a makeshift noose, unclothed and with hands bound behind her back and feet bound, in a courtyard at the mansion July 13, the sheriff’s department said at the time.

That was two days after 6-year-old Max Shacknai suffered fatal injuries in what the department termed an accidental fall at the same house.

The home is owned by Zahau’s boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, father of Max and CEO of an Arizona-based cosmetic drug company, Medicis Pharmaceutical. Shacknai and Zahau lived in the mansion and maintained homes in the Phoenix area. Her body was found by Adam Shacknai, the owner’s brother, who was visiting from Memphis.

Bremner, the attorney, said she and the family met with investigators for more than three hours this week and that the family was distraught over the conclusion. Bremner said there is no precedent for a woman committing suicde in the manner in which San Diego authorities contend.

“This would be the first case in the history of the world that a woman killed herself like this,” she said. “It’s ridiculous on the face of it.”

She complained that the meeting was the first time investigators had met in person to discuss the case with Zahau’s relatives, who live in Missouri, and that the San Diego authorities had already reached their conclusions.

Bremner provided some of the first public details of the death scene and investigation.

She said investigators found what they described as a suicide note. Bremner said the family does not believe it was in Rebecca Zahau’s handwriting. She said the note was ambiguous in meaning.

“They strongly believe the note found at the scene was not her handwriting,” Bremner said.

She said authorities need to have an outside review of some of the evidence, including an analysis of the handwritting in the note, and that polygraph tests should be conducted of “those closest to the victim.”

She said Zahau had never displayed depression or signs of suicide, and had not indicated to others that she blamed herself for the accident that led to the boy’s death. She had been upbeat in an evening phone call with family before her death, Bremner said.

She said officials explained Zahau’s nudity in death by saying she routinely slept without clothing.

Bremner said Zahau was not alone in the mansion when Max had his accident. She said that two of the child’s teenage siblings were present as well and that Zahau was in the shower at the time of the accident. Max’s mother and Jonah Shacknai were divorced, and Zahau had recently divorced as well.

Bremner said investigators told her that the child had been conducting a trick known as “planking,” or lying horizontally in unusual locations, around the staircase when he fell. Planking is a fad popularized with photographs and videos online.

“I really hope they will reconsider and really fully investigate this case,” Bremner said. “This department needs to be more measured and careful. … My belief is she did not kill herself.”


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