Lawsuit calls Coronado mansion death ‘murder’

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RebeccaZahuaCORONADO, Calif. — The family of a woman whose nude body was found hanging outside her boyfriend’s Coronado mansion is suing his ex-wife, his former sister-in-law and his brother for more than $10 million in damages, saying they are responsible for her death, which they label a murder even though authorities ruled it a suicide.

Rebecca Zahau’s mother and sister filed the wrongful death lawsuit Friday in federal court in San Diego County against Dina Shacknai, her sister, Nina Romano, and Adam Shacknai. Zahau’s boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, is not named in the action.

At the time of Zahau’s death, Dina Shacknai, who lives in Arizona, was staying at a vacation home a few blocks away from the mansion, Romano had flown in from Sacramento to be with her sister, and Adam Shacknai, who lives in Tennessee, was staying in the mansion’s guest house, U-T San Diego reported.

The lawsuit states that each defendant may not have directly been involved in Zahau’s death but each had threatened her and failed to warn her about a scheme to harm her. It alleges assault, battery, negligence and wrongful death, according to U-T San Diego.

Zahau had been living with the Jonah Shacknai, who split his time between Coronado and his company’s headquarters in Arizona. On July 13, 2011, her body was found hanging outside the historic Spreckels mansion.

Two days earlier, Shacknai’s 6-year-old son, Max, with ex-wife Dina, fell over a stairway railing in the mansion while under Zahau’s care. Max was hospitalized with a grim prognosis when Adam Shacknai found Zahau’s body. Max was pronounced dead several days after his fall.

Following a months-long investigation, San Diego County Sheriff’s Bill Gore said investigators were convinced that Zahau took her own life based on physical evidence, medical information and witness statements.

Authorities speculated Zahau committed suicide because she was distraught over Max’s declining condition. His death was ruled accidental.

7 comments

  • LoyolaAlum

    The Catholic Jesuit organization, headquartered in Los Gatos, California, paid more than $1 million regarding the wrongful death of James Chevedden. The Jesuits claimed that Chevedden’s suspicious death was a suicide. This was under Thomas Smolich, who is now the highest-ranking USA Jesuit. The $1 million amount may be more notable because the San Jose police barely investigated Chevedden’s suspicious death which could have been staged as a suicide.

  • markit8dude

    Who knows what happened. The only thing that bothers me about this story/case is seeing the smiling photo of that poor little boy..

  • Marie

    Amazing how much the Zahau's have tried to sensationalize this story. They are beating a dead horse. Rebecca Zahau committed suicide and all the DNA and fingerprints prove that. To date, there has been NO physical evidence that links ANYONE other than Rebecca Zahau to her hanging. She killed herself over what happened to Jonah's little boy under her watch. The real question is "Was Rebecca Zahau responsible for Max's death". The Zahau's are trying to steer the real story away from Rebecca's involvement in Maxie's death by continuously trying to sensationalize this story. Sorry, the public isn't stupid the Zahaus areafter Jonah Shacknai's money. They need to go away, grieve for their sister's suicide, and leave the innocent Shacknai family alone. The Shacknais have been blamed by the Zahuas for too long now and there is STILL no evidence for murder.

  • Sherry

    There is no doubt that Rebecca Zahau was murdered and Dina Romano Shacknai’s whereabouts that night are not accounted for. Someone (a couple and their child) saw her at the mansion that night, someone else reported hearing screams late at night, her sister Nina Romano was at the mansion late that night by her own admission (having borrowed Jonah Shacknai’s car, why not her sister Dina’s car if she were at that hospital), and Dina was absent from the hospital on that Tuesday for 12 hours during the day – she was not by her son’s bedside, why?). Dina is known to be violent and domestic violence went on in her house from 2006 until 2009 with Maxie present. Dina also did everything in her power to keep Rebecca from having a normal relationship with Max and interfere with any newly formed relationship she had with Jonah.

  • ellie_b

    I have a hard time believe a distraught woman would strip naked, tie her ankles together, tie a noose around her neck, hop out to a balcony, tie her wrists, and do a somersault over a railing, but that's what detective said had happened. They proved it was possible, but there is a big difference between possible and likely. I'm guessing they didn't want to hassle the billionaire's family too much over some immigrant lady.

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