KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's been seven and a half years since the bizarre hanging death of Rebecca Zahau at the historic Spreckels Mansion in Coronado.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has ruled twice that the 32-year-old committed suicide. A civil jury found her boyfriend's brother, Adam Shacknai, liable for her death. Now, for the first time, Zahau's sister Mary and her brother-in-law Doug are reacting to the Sheriff Department's second ruling of suicide in early December.
"I will never give up. My sister deserves justice and she was treated with disrespect and she was treated like a piece of garbage and I'm not having that," Mary Zahau-Loehner said during an hour-long interview with FOX 5 at her home near Kansas City, Missouri. "I want them to remember her as she was, not the way that she has been on the news, not the way that she has been presented in trial, not the way she was at the crime scene. I want them to remember her before this moment."
Zahau's story is famous worldwide. A beautiful woman found naked, gagged, bound and hanging from a balcony. Her boyfriend, a millionaire. Her death ruled a suicide -- twice.
"If it takes my lifetime to let the world know what the truth really is and that she was murdered and defy the justice system until they do the right thing, then I will do it," Zahau-Loehner said.
Zahau-Loehner spoke candidly with FOX 5 about details of the case never before heard, like how she claims her family was treated by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
"They never asked my opinion, they never asked what I knew, they never asked what I thought or to confirm or not confirm any kind of facts or any kind of thing that I knew about my sister or about the case," Zahau-Loehner said. "They have never given us the time of the day or the consideration that you should be giving a victim's family. We might as well be like gum stuck to their boots. That's how they treated us."
Zahau-Loehner said she wasn't surprised by the Sheriff's Department second ruling of suicide on December 7.
"I was very disappointed because I was hoping that they would do the right thing," Zahau-Loehner said. "You can come up with that she was depressed, you can come up with she did this and she did that, but in that entirety of that crime scene, it is not possible for her to do it. It seems like the investigation from day one was done to support the theory of suicide."
Zahau-Loehner's husband, Doug Loehner, who is a veteran detective himself, says the investigation was sloppy.
"They keep saying we did this re-enactment. No, you did not," Loehner said. "You got someone that's playing with a rope. A re-enactment would be start to finish. They overlooked things that need to be looked at and they just want to hone in on a few set of things."
Loehner often visits Zahau's grave in St. Joseph, Missouri.
"I try and tell her what the kids are doing, what Mary and I are doing, just to remind her that we're still here," Loehner said. "We think about her and miss her."
For Zahau-Loehner, it's very agonizing for her to come to her sister's final resting place. She said there has not been enough closure for her and her loved ones.
"First of all, I haven't finished the fight for her. Justice is not served yet," Zahau-Loehner said. "I feel like when I go to her grave, I can't tell her to rest in peace. So, if I can't tell her that, what's the point? And through all of this fight, I'm hanging on to the fact that she's right there with me, fighting along with me."
Zahau-Loehner has been hanging on for years, first through Zahau's death, then their father's, who died two years later from a broken heart -- father and daughter buried next to each other.
"Part of me is somewhat angry. The other part of me is, I'm almost jealous because she's in a better place and she doesn't have to worry anymore and she's not in pain anymore."
Zahau-Loehner said she tries to cope with her loss by thinking of their childhood -- typical sisters who shared everything, who fought, who remained close even though life took them to separate states.
"I would have tried to spend a lot more time with her," Zahau-Loehner said. "You don't think about that in life. You're busy with work and you're busy with your kids or you're busy with your activities and you always say next time or next week or next month or next year. I would've spent a lot more time with her."
As Zahau-Loehner and Loehner carry on their search for closure, they have one simple request.
"I would like a completely new agency, nothing to do with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, to come in and look at every single piece of evidence in its entirety."
FOX 5 reached out to Sheriff Bill Gore to get an on-camera reaction to this story. He declined to go on the air, but did say he stands by the original investigation and review that Zahau committed suicide.
Adam Shacknai issued a statement shortly after the department's second ruling and said he was in no way responsible for Zahau's death.
On Friday, a judge will rule on his request to overturn a civil jury's verdict against him or to have a new civil trial.