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Dead boy’s mother, aunt dismissed from lawsuit over Coronado mansion death

SAN DIEGO – The attorney for the family of Rebecca Zahau, whose nude body was found hanging from a balcony of an historic Coronado mansion in 2011, announced Thursday that he has dropped two people from the wrongful death lawsuit filed in the case.

Zahau, 32, was found naked and hanging from the second-story balcony of the Spreckles Mansion in Coronado in July 2011.  An investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department ruled Zahau’s death as a suicide.

Two days before Zahau died, her boyfriend’s 6-year-old son fell over a stairway railing while under her care. Authorities speculated Zahau killed herself because she was distraught over his declining condition. He died in a hospital three days later.

Zahau’s family disputed that she killed herself. They sued for wrongful death, originally alleging that Adam Shacknai, the brother of Zahau’s millionaire boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, along with Jonah’s ex-wife, Dina Shacknai, and Dina Shacknai’s sister, Nina Romano, conspired to murder Zahau. The family sued the three for more than $10 million. The suit alleges assault, battery, negligence and wrongful death.

DOCUMENTS: Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Thursday, Keith Greer, the Zahau family's attorney, announced that he had dismissed Dina Shacknai and Nina Romano from the suit after obtaining evidence that they were not at the Spreckles Mansion when Zahau died. Greer said that surveillance video proved that Dina Shacknai was at Rady Children's Hospital at that time.

"We had evidence that we thought put Dina and Nina at the scene of the incident," Greer said. "After years of discovery, investigation and examination by experts, however, we found that that evidence has been refuted, that our theory that they were involved in the case – our initial theory – was just flat-out wrong."

Years after requesting it, Greer received 27 disks of security camera video taken at the hospital. It proved that Dina Shacknai spent the entire day and evening of Zahau's death in the pediatric intensive care unit with her son, Max. Other evidence proved that her sister, Nina Romano, was not at the Spreckles Mansion when Zahau died. As a result of the new evidence, Shacknai and Ramano have been dismissed from the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning that they cannot be added again at a later time, Greer said.

"Adam Shacknai is the sole defendant in the case now," he said.

Greer apologized to both women, who were present at the news conference.

"The trauma that this has caused to them – as you know this has been a very high profile case, and it's affected their lives in ways that we can't even know -- I just want to do my best to rectify that so the world knows that they were not involved in any way," Greer said.