Zahau Tops List of 2011's Big Stories

The death of the 32-year-old Arizona resident at the Spreckels mansion drew national attention and raised questions long after local authorities declared it a suicide.


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.

wuglid January 07, 2012 at 08:41 AM
Not everyone can have soft weirdly gross glossy feminine lips and shiny eyelids and mascara RBM (like someone you look in the mirror and see). EWWwww Maybe that works on a female - but it doesn't work for you Mr. Eyebrows going UP and Down. Oddly reminds me of the latest Casey Anthony video. A little bit obsessed with oneself? The only difference is that you don't actually "say" anything. Very creepy.
K January 07, 2012 at 03:42 PM
@ Robert - You failed science. You can't prove anything by science. Real experts have already proven suicide. Accept it.
K January 07, 2012 at 03:43 PM
@ AOK2U - That didn't happen, but way to blame a little kindergarten boy for his own death. What was Rebecca doing while he lay dying? Putting on eyeshadow? Rifling through Jonah's things?
K January 07, 2012 at 03:47 PM
@ Hillarie - So funny you label Dina a "blabbermouth" when Dina has been silent all along. Meanwhile, you've got Gail Powell here blowing a gasket with her severe case of diarrhea of the mouth. Oh, the irony!
K January 07, 2012 at 04:52 PM
@ Grace - From the beginning of the world til now, you don't believe millions of people have died from hanging?
Interested January 07, 2012 at 07:12 PM
The RELEVANT issue is that the SDSO failed science. That is already patently clear.
Grace January 07, 2012 at 07:44 PM
urban dictionary ludwig, do you wear your pants below your butt with your crack showing too?
K January 07, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Instead of "surfer girl", that should read "surfer geriatric person". She's old!
K January 07, 2012 at 07:49 PM
@ Interested - What are you? Robert Mack's nanny? (I hope you're a more competent one that RZ). Why do you follow him around, attempting to police what people say to him? Grow up! Let him take responsibility for his own words. As far as science goes, those investigating this suicide have more expertise, education, and know-how than those of the murder posse. Just yet another reason why you hate the experts so much - you'll never be one.
Robert Mack January 07, 2012 at 08:37 PM
K - Nobody hates investigators, hate resides in your heart not ours.. Yes investigators failed the sience but that doesnt mean anyone hates them.. Maybe K you need to speak with a preacher, maybe a little God in your life will do you good. IMO
Maggie C. January 07, 2012 at 09:34 PM
The victims in this case are the innocent Shacknais and Romanos. Rebecca Zahau committed suicide and they are not to blame. She hung herself, all by herself.
Robert Mack January 07, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Sorry I do not equate Shacknai with the Jewish people. I would not insult my friends like that. Stop spewing trash already, your just making your hole deeper.
forward January 08, 2012 at 05:09 AM
All of these stories and posts have been forwarded to the AGs office for consideration. Thanks to the suicide gang for your constant mockery to show your callous disregard for this obvious murder. Repetition of the "true victims" line sounds like every other perp in jail. She's heard that a million times.
The Truth Hurts August 02, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Forward on. Let the truth come out. Let the world see what Rebecca Zahau did to Max. RIP Max. Justice IS coming.
Robert Mack August 03, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Rebecca didn't hurt Max you sicko, she was not the one with a history of violence, anger, and hate. If Max died at someone's hands rest assured it was not Rebecca's and Dina should know that. That said a new investigation will answer all of those and many more questions. Real answers to real and honest questions. Justice for Rebecca Zahau and Max.
The Truth Hurts August 03, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Mutual friends of Dina and Jonah have come forward with concerns about Rebecca's treatment of Max. Someone has come forward with an account of how Rebecca hurt this person - an adult - with her jiu-jitsu skills. Rebecca Zahau was a troubled woman with a criminal record, poor impulse control, and anger management as well as control issues. Dina's team know the whole story. They know how Maxie died. When it comes out, it will be a bombshell. Blow both cases open wide. Make Xena testify and take a lie detector. Let the public know ALL the details of Rebecca Zahau's suicide. RIP Max.
jessica August 03, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Robert Max- Dina knows exactly who was responsible for Maxie's death. Just because one person uses five different names does not mean the history of violence does not belong to that one person. The batman killer had less of a history than Rebecca.
Jiu Jitsu August 03, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Dina and Jonah were not the ones who had to take anger management courses. They were not the ones who had criminal records, poor impulse control, and were not anally retentive about food and controlling small children. They were not martial arts experts. Cameras and witnesses place Jonah at the gym that day. Xena admits only she and Rebecca were alone with Max when he was mortally wounded. Only Rebecca Zahau killed herself rather than face a CPS investigation.
news to come August 06, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Expect a "blended" family meltdown. This will conclude in a final confrontation between Dina and Jonah. The news will be wild.
wigzag August 07, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Neither the suicide posse or I will ever hear about the quiet settlements and confidentiality agreements that get put into place... EVER. Those are the negotiations going on right now. It's way past time to move on.
BBL August 07, 2012 at 12:34 AM
But wait, I thought you've said that Dina isn't in this for the money. Then why the need for the secrecy? What are they trying to hide. Why don't you go ahead and just move on since you've lost all interest?
wigzag August 07, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Correction *the murder posse*
yogapants August 09, 2012 at 10:30 PM
WRONG, Jiu Jitsu. Cameras and witness DO NOT place Jonah at the gym that day. If you know different, then provide a link.
Robert Mack August 09, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Jessica - I swear the suicide brigade has went off the deep end. 5 different names, please enlighten us since you are "in the know". There was nothing mischievous or devious to her names. She had her birth name, her maiden name, and her married name. Very common with those emigrating to America wich you should know.. But I understand, you have ro make everything about Rebecca into something evil. Where is a copy of that report that you, an impartial observer (as you have claimed) have seen it? Think we can all see you have been lying about that and just about everything else.
Scary lady August 15, 2012 at 06:48 PM
So Dina will get all of Rebecca's nothing? Good deal. Maybe she'll get some blue eye shadow to complete her scary face.
jessica August 15, 2012 at 09:15 PM
@Robert Mack-I just read what you wrote. Did you read the report yet? I never said I was an impartial observer, I have always stated, I feel bad for Rebecca's parents but I am here for Maxie. I have never classified myself as an observer. The people important to this case definitely know who the liars are. My opinion- I really don't care about Rebecca changing her name. I don't think its evil, I just don't think its innocent. 6 different names, 8 or 9 addresses, in 3 different states and about 12 different cities, (and that's just for a few years in North America) on a simple search is quite suspicious in these circumstances. I would not care that she had a short temper or about any of her personality faults. But put them all together with Maxie's death, it all means something. I do think its evil she would control a six year old little boys food and that the other children had their mom sneak food to them. I also think it is bizarre that she took pictures of Max crying. I hope you have read the report by now, if not please do so.
Robert Mack August 20, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Jessica - I have read the "report" and I see nothing conclusive at all. Just a theory based I might add on partial information and ramblings we have all seen spewed on that hate filled lhk site. Jessica do you forget that people can go back and view your earlier comments where you in fact claimed to be an impartial citizen not connected to the families. Months later we find that like much of everything you have posted here to be an exaggerated lie. Real answers to honest questions and justice for Rebecca Zahau and Max
jessica September 11, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Robert Mack- I would like links to where I stated I "was an impartial citizen" or anything along those lines, because that is not my language at all. I am not connected to the families, and from day one my focus was Maxie. I never believed it was an accident so I never claimed to be "impartial". As for Rebecca's case, I believe what I believe but I do have more of an open mind. I do feel if her death was a "murder" it would have been made to look like a definite suicide. I do feel for her parents and I hope they find peace in this terrible tragedy. For this reason, and to clear the names of those accused, I feel both cases should be re investigatigated.
linda September 17, 2012 at 10:11 AM
Boycott Jonah's company Medicis and all the toxic chemical injections they sell: http://www.medicis.com/products/products.aspx Restylane, Perlane, Dysport they are poisons, lots of women are complaining about side effects.
RC September 29, 2012 at 03:31 AM
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore is PATHETIC! Speaking of the Zahau case, Gore please explain how the toxicology, DNA and footprints proved it was suicide? Where is the suicide note, history of depression, suicide ideology, or witness statements. Where is the proof that it could not have been 1.) premeditated and carried out by 2.) an educated person 3.) wearing gloves with 4.) time to stage? Those items are not a stretch as they all exists here and none were ruled out.


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