Defendant in Zahau wrongful death suit says he didn’t kill her

SAN DIEGO -- A man being sued by the family of a woman who authorities said committed suicide by hanging herself at her millionaire boyfriend's Coronado mansion testified Monday that he had nothing to do with her death.

Adam Shacknai, 54, testified that he emerged from a guest house at the mansion about 6:45 a.m. on July 13, 2011, and saw Rebecca Zahau's naked, lifeless body hanging from a second-story balcony.

Shacknai, the younger brother of Zahau's boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, said he called 911, lowered the 32-year-old Zahau to the ground, and tried to perform CPR on her. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Dan Webb, the attorney for Adam Shacknai, asked his client if he participated at all in Zahau's death.

"Most certainly not,'' Shacknai testified.

Zahau's mother and older sister filed the wrongful death lawsuit against him, alleging he confronted Rebecca Zahau a day after his brother's 6- year-old son Max fell from a second-story landing at the mansion and was critically injured. The boy died five days later.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Keith Greer, alleged that Adam Shacknai delivered four blows to the head of Zahau, rendering her partially or fully unconscious. Greer also alleged that the defendant sexually assaulted Zahau, tied her hands and feet, put a noose around her neck and threw her body off a second-story balcony.

Greer said the plaintiffs should be awarded unspecified monetary damages for loss of companionship and emotional support.

Webb told the jury that there was no evidence that Adam Shacknai -- who has lived and worked in Memphis for 30 years -- had anything to do with Zahau's death. Adam Shacknai said Zahau encouraged him to come to San Diego to support his brother at his time of need.

Webb said the plaintiffs would not be able to prove their case.

The attorney said four law enforcement agencies investigated Zahau's death for two months and determined that she committed suicide.