SAN DIEGO – An attorney for Rebecca Zahau's family claimed Tuesday that further analysis of evidence proves that she did not commit suicide in her boyfriend's Coronado mansion in 2011.
Attorney Keith Greer filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Zahau's family that alleges that Adam Shacknai, the brother of Zahau’s boyfriend, killed her. Tuesday, he told FOX 5 that new evidence boosts their case against him.
Zahau, 32, was found naked and hanging from the second-story balcony of the Spreckels Mansion in Coronado in July 2011.
“She was actually strangled and killed before she was hung off the deck,” Greer said.
Greer said his team of investigators has uncovered a new piece of evidence which calls into question the suicide ruling by the San Diego County Medical Examiner. He said the evidence indicates that Zahau was sexually assaulted on the night of her death.
In court documents filed by Greer, experts stated Zahau’s DNA was found all over the handle of a steak knife. The original investigation confirmed that Zahau's blood was on the handle. A later investigation determined it was Zahau's menstrual blood, Greer said.
“She was violated by the handle of the knife that was inserted into her,” the attorney alleged.
Greer also said evidence in the form of a mysterious message painted on Zahau's bedroom door links Adam Shaknai to the scene of her death.
“There were characteristics of the handwriting on the door that were similar to characteristics that were similar to Adam's and not similar to Rebecca's,” he said.
Sheriff's investigators concluded that Zahau painted the message on the door, and the official ruling on Zahau's death has always been suicide. The Zahau family has never accepted that ruling, and Greer said the blood evidence and handwriting analysis presented in the wrongful death suit boosts their case against Adam Shacknai.
Expert witness Dr. Cyril Wecht found Zahau had suffered four blows to the head and she had marks on her neck indicating strangulation, Greer said. It shows not only was she knocked unconscious, but she was strangled to death prior to hanging off the balcony.
Greer also pointed to a rope in the case. He said it was a ski boat rope cut in three pieces. A knotting expert found these knots tied in the rope were nautical/maritime knots. Greer said one of the knots was similar in nature of a boat being docked to shore and the noose tied to the bed had these similar knots.
"The defendant Adam Shacknai was a tugboat captain, someone who was very familiar with maritime knotting," Greer said.
Shacknai and his attorneys have maintained his innocence throughout the legal proceedings.
The defense attorney filed a motion in November against Greer to exclude the expert testimony in the case.
The civil trial is scheduled for February 23.
The Zahau family is not pushing forward with their lawsuit to collect money, Greer said. “The family says even if [Shacknai offers a monetary settlement it] doesn’t matter what it is, they are going to say no to it because it’s dirty money," he said. "It’s a matter of honor at this point. They want to clear their sister's name and expose the person who did this."