SAN DIEGO — Rebecca Zahau’s family and their attorney, Keith Greer, plan to legally ask to change Zahau’s cause of death from suicide to either murdered or undetermined in a petition served to the current and former San Diego County medical examiner.
Zahau was found hanging nude and tied up, hanging from the Spreckles mansion in Coronado in July 2011.
“We’re serving a petition on the San Diego Medical Examiner and that’s the organization, the department that’s in charge of that death certificate and we are also going to be serving Dr. (Jonathan) Lucas, who was the chief medical examiner at the time of the autopsy and investigation, he’s the one that signed her death certificate,” Greer said.
The sheriff’s department and medical examiner’s office determined Zahau’s death was a suicide, but the family and attorney have fought against that, claiming she was murdered and sexually abused.
Greer said this petition is another step toward justice for the family.
“The citizenry of San Diego should be just up in arms upset about this,” Greer said in an interview with FOX 5 Wednesday. “You can’t get the wheels of justice turning unless you have the crime there, and if it’s undetermined, that at least gives us hope and opens up the investigation, as long as it stays suicide no one is going to look at it, the sheriff doesn’t have to investigate it.”
In 2018, a civil jury trial found Adam Shacknai, Zahau’s boyfriend’s brother, responsible for her death, but there are no criminal charges filed.
The attorney and family have announced in years past that they were going to submit this petition, but changed course and filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department for more records. That suit was later dismissed.
Greer said the petition to the medical examiner’s will include new evidence that shows Shacknai was lying on the stand in regards to how he allegedly cut down Zahau’s body.
“He said he had to get on top of a table and reach up and cut her down,” Greer said. “He could have done it flat-footed.”
If the medical examiner’s do not change the cause of the death, it’s not over.
John Hemmerling, who is running for San Diego County Sheriff in November, has said he will re-open the case if elected. His opponent, Kelly Martinez, has said she would be open to an outside agency investigating the case.
Dr. Jonathan Lucas, the prior San Diego County Chief Medical Examiner who signed the death certificate, now works as the Los Angeles County Coroner. His office declined to comment Wednesday, but the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office did respond in an email to FOX 5.
“We haven’t received the petition, but the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office did a thorough investigation of Ms. Zahau’s case in 2011 per California Government Code Section 27491. In 2018, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Glenn Wagner reviewed the case and made no changes to the certified cause and manner of death,” San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office spokesperson Chuck Westerheide, Jr. stated.