Handwriting expert takes the stand in Zahau wrongful death case

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SAN DIEGO -- As testimony continued Monday during day three of a wrongful death civil case, plaintiff's attorneys focused on a cryptic message left on a door near where Rebecca Zahau's body was found.

In 2011, Zahau, 32, was found bound, gagged and hanging from a second-story balcony in a historic Coronado mansion. Investigators ruled Zahau’s death a suicide, but her sister filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Zahau's boyfriend's brother, Adam Shackani.

The message, painted in black on the white door, was written on two lines. The first line: "she saved him;" the second: "can you save her".

Criminal investigators say the message was written by Zahau, but a handwriting expert says it was more likely written by Shacknai.

“Between Adam and Rebecca, it’s more likely Adam because Adam’s writing is the writing that comports with these attributes on the door and Rebecca’s doesn’t,” said Michael Wakshull.

A Coronado police officer -- the first officer at the scene after Zahau's death -- testified that he did leave a bootprint on the balcony where her body was found.

Sheriff's investigators say Zahau killed herself because they believe she felt responsible for the death of six-year-old Max Shacknai, who fell at the house while Zahau was supposed to be babysitting.

Plaintiff's attorneys say a psychologist checked out Zahau that night and while she was shaking, didn’t show any signs of suicidal intentions.

“She had no indication ... really that I could visually see, or from statements that she made,” said psychologist Karen Hancock.

The case will continue Tuesday.