What story will you remember most from 2011? The Spreckels mansion and the mysterious case of Rebecca Zahau, Patch voters decided in a poll this week.
Some of the reasons? of an Arizona pharmaceuticals mogul who summered in Coronado was initially described by authorities as “violent” and “very suspicious.”
She was beautiful and fit. He was rich and successful. They were steps away from the beach and the glamorous and historic Hotel del Coronado. And they were linked to another tragedy, a horrible injury to a young boy.
Zahau died July 13, less than two days after the child, Max, her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai's son, fell on the mansion's staircase. He died July 16.
Of course there were the lurid aspects that often draw in mystery buffs. Zahau being found nude, and bound hand and foot. Media helicopters buzzing overhead capturing images of her body as she lay uncovered in the mansion's courtyard. Her family electing to have her exhumed, with the inconclusive results of a new autopsy airing on Dr. Phil's talk show.
What do we know? The Sheriff's department, which was called in by the Coronado police, . Her family .
Will Zahau's story in 2012? Her family, through their attorneys, have maintained they will reach out to the state for a new investigation. Meanwhile, the house, filled with such pain for Shacknai, is set to pass into the hands of a new owner.
Here are some of the pivot points of the story over the past five months, as we get set to leave 2011 behind:
July: A young boy falls at the Spreckels mansion July 11, suffering head injuries that would leave him without a pulse. He is revived and ultimately taken to Rady Children's Hospital.
Coronado police are summoned to the mansion before 7 a.m. July 13. A body has been found on the property and officers call in the San Diego County Sheriff's Department to aid in the investigation. Neighbors gather outside and bring up the boy's fall two days earlier. The victim is said to be anyone from a nanny to a mistress. Long after nightfall, she is identified as Rebecca Nalepa.
Investigators refer to their probe as a death investigation, not a homicide or murder inquiry, on July 14, and . The only other person on the property at the time of the death, homeowner Jonah Shacknai's brother Adam, said he found the victim hanging from a second-floor balcony. Her hands were tied behind her back and her feet were bound. There were no signs of sexual assault.
Detectives also released her correct name: Rebecca Zahau.
. Reports surface of domestic strife between the boy's father and ex-wife Dina Shacknai.
August: for investors in his company, Medicis Pharmaceutical. After weeks of silence on the Sheriffs' part – and the launch of a web page dedicated to the case – .
September: The Sheriffs department announces a news conference for Sept. 2, but word quickly leaks that they are formally declaring Zahau's death a suicide. They hire Seattle-based attorney Anne Bremner, who has been attached to other high-profile cases involving women, earlier in the week.
In an unusual move, Sheriff Bill Gore hosts the news conference, and declares the Zahau case closed. Coronado police also rule Max Shacknai's death an accident. The Sheriff's department , including slides on the findings, a video of how Zahau might have bound herself and a diagram of how Max might have fallen.
and the Zahau family immediately questions a number of details that investigators failed to discuss in the news conference on the eve of Labor Day weekend. They include bruises atop Zahau's head and tape marks and blood on her legs.
The week of Sept. 19, not because he objects to the findings, but to dispel rampant speculation and criticism. His letter comes a day before the court releases warrants that list items taken from the scene and reveal that some electronic evidence wasn't secured until late August, days before the suicide ruling.
One warrant showed that a Rady physician suggested that . The state denies Shacknai's request for a review of the investigation.
October: , days before Bremner acquires the case files from the Sheriff's department. .
November: The case files show detectives who spoke with Zahau after Max fell . CBS8 offers a re-enactment of how Zahau might have bound herself and pitched herself over the balcony railing and conducts a lengthy interview with Nina Romano, the twin sister of Max Shacknai's mother.
The woman admits she was outside the mansion July 12 in the hours before Zahau's body was found. The re-enactments are re-aired, along with family interviews and footage of the new autopsy, Nov. 14-15. Gore declines to participate, but .
December: CBS8 obtains a letter that accompanied the Zahau files, in which the Sheriff's department appears to take an aggressive tone with the family, suggesting the case records will not be publicly released "unless there later develops a law enforcement necessity to do so." 10News reports that the Zahau family attorneys continue to seek a visit to the mansion before it is officially transferred from Shacknai's ownership.