Celebrated Author Ann Rule Turns Her Attention to Spreckels Case

Rule's look at the deaths at the mansion one year ago will be released in November.

Editor's note: One year ago . Public fascination continued for weeks afterward, peaking in September , not crimes. This week, Patch revisits the deaths of Rebecca Zahau and Max Shacknai in pieces about , an upcoming book and Zahau's loved ones, who continue to maintain she did not kill herself.  

The Spreckels mansion case was , four months after the two deaths associated with the oceanfront residence.

It will crop up again this November, when renowned true crime author Ann Rule releases Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors, the latest in her Crime Files series.

The will be one of the two anchor pieces in the book, a compilation of nine stories, which Rule said is due out around Thanksgiving.

The longest pieces, about 200 pages each, will focus on the Spreckels case and the Washington death of Josh Powell, who killed himself and his two sons in February after being suspected in the 2009 disappearance of his wife.

Rule chose the Spreckels investigation, she said, because “if I'm curious about a case and feel a little tingle in the back of my neck, I think my readers will too.”

The best-selling author's assessment, after researching crimes for more than 30 books and hundreds of magazine articles: “This one was one of strangest cases when I first read about it that I've ever come across.”

In an interview with Patch, Rule said it was too soon to offer a theory of the case or her impressions of Zahau, but shared some other tidbits from her upcoming book:

  • She talked to two former detectives who disagree with the suicide finding by the San Diego County Sheriffs Department.
  • She received little information from the Sheriffs department. They “seemed very solid in their beliefs that it was a suicide,” Rule said.
  • She also looked into the circumstances surrounding , who was injured two days before Zahau died.

“I hope I give some new angles and some understanding of the characters,” Rule said, of Zahau, her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai, his late son and others involved in the case.

She did not travel to Coronado or to Arizona, where Shacknai lives, to conduct her research, Rule said, but talked extensively with Zahau's loved ones, who believe she was killed. She also has a long-time friendship with Seattle attorney Anne Bremner, who is representing .

“It seems to me there is so much physical evidence that indicated a homicide rather than a suicide,” she said. 

She does not see the case lending itself to another book after her Crime Files collection is released in November, but she also doesn't rule out the possibility of a trial taking place someday.

“This case is sort of hanging in mid-air,” she said. “It could always be re-opened.”

Next: On Friday, a loved one discusses why she remains convinced that Rebecca Zahau was a crime victim, and not a suicide.


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Megan Howell July 15, 2012 at 06:43 PM
One would think, wouldn't one?
Megan Howell July 15, 2012 at 06:52 PM
But how much WILL you receive, Anne? If the book is not pulled for libel, that is...
Megan Howell July 15, 2012 at 06:53 PM
And that goes for Anne Bremner, too.
Salem July 15, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Definitely murder. More than one person plotted and methodically and heinously killed Rebecca. They know who they are. Justice will prevail.
Truth July 16, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Page 9 of the autopsy report shows Max's ribcage were normal, and his lungs did not have fluid in them. There's no need to make things up, Paula. The autopsy report is clear for anyone who has the understanding to read it: Max Shacknai died from lack of oxygen. His injuries were minor and easily survivable. Someone denied Max Shacknai oxygen. Only Xena and Rebecca Zahau were present when Max received his fatal injuries. Just what happened that day that Rebecca Zahau couldn't live with?
Truth July 16, 2012 at 02:17 PM
They weren't even approached Robert.
Truth July 16, 2012 at 04:16 PM
That's some bad fiction, Salem. Maybe you can help Ann Rule write her next book.
Meow July 16, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Yeah right, Salem. And left not a trace of physical evidence, but managed to get only Rebecca's DNA and fingerprints on the door frame, door knob, paint brushed, knives, bed leg, and rope KNOTS.
jessica July 16, 2012 at 05:06 PM
@Paula Badger- "Classic crush injury" actually refers to muscle which is not relevant in Max's case. -Max's lung has only the associated signs of hypoxia from respiratory arrest on autopsy.(page 8 Max Shacknai autopsy report). If help were called in time, his brain would not have had the enormous amount of swelling it had which was his cause of death. -There was no disruption in the architecture of Max's lung (contusion, perforation, wound,tear etc.)-page 8 autopsy report -If there was enough force for the ribs to compress the lungs and cause perforation,I would expect fractured ribs or broken ribs, which were not present and Max's ribs were anatomically normal(page 9 autopsy report) -There were absolutely no signs of trauma to Max's lung on autopsy report.The findings of the lung on the autopsy report are that of a resuscitated patient, or one mechanically ventilated for several days.
Go Dina July 17, 2012 at 04:28 PM
DNA is easy to spread once the victim is dead. House was wide open from first police arrival. Why did it take 13 hours for the ME to arrive? Why did LE need a search warrant? Did Jonah really cooperate? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
dogbite July 17, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Tons of physical evidence you flea-bitten feline. Read the list.
peapod July 18, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Who cares if you buy or read the book. The millions who watched Dr. Phil will buy it and demand the killers be punished.
charity for the rich July 18, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Ann, Start with the list, then Nina's radio interview, then Adam's statements. Don't conclude.
Mrs. Holmes July 19, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Sorry. All the physical evidence proves it was Zahau.
Hello J July 20, 2012 at 07:23 AM
One year ago, the stories were flying and everyone figured it was Adam since he was in the back house. Then came the 6 week news blackout and the bogus PC. That was supposed to work.
Twinkie July 22, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Hey Ann, what about learning about BOTH sides of the story, instead of being in bed with the Zahaus and Bremner?
gumshoe sense July 23, 2012 at 07:25 AM
Sure, why not? Give the readers the "official version" first (their side) then bring on the obvious truth. No rational person believes that nude-bound-gagged -hung but no broken neck story. And that's why Rebecca made it all the way to 2 Dr. Phil shows posthumously. Millions saw them. Can't take that back.
Pretty Shiny Jewelry July 25, 2012 at 08:47 AM
Hey Ann, are you going to include Rebecca's shop lifting and shady past?
method July 30, 2012 at 03:49 PM
This is how Rebecca was murdered. The hanging came later to cover. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garrote
Sweet Pea July 30, 2012 at 08:09 PM
You can't even compare the two, method. It's sad how ridiculous the statements from the murder posse are. Dina's team knows how Max was killed. I'll bet Team Zahau know it, too. Team Zahau is just trying to spin it any way they can to cash in on Rebecca's suicide. RIP Max. Justice is coming.
The Truth Hurts August 02, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Ann Rule is going to look stupid when her book shows she missed the real story - what happened to little Max. RIP Max. Justice is coming.
Lying eyes August 03, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Little Max was hyperactive with the full candy drawer. Go ahead, refute the police findings. Hope they pull the plug on the ungrateful recipients of their accident/suicide finding.
who was where August 03, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Maybe she'll be able to verify the flights taken by Ethan and Gabby. That would be a good start.
news to come August 06, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Expect a "blended" family meltdown. This will conclude in a final confrontation between Dina and Jonah. The news will be wild.
Tija August 10, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Guess you'd better stop the presses and do a quick rewrite Ann, so you don't have egg on your face. Now the story reads, "Rebecca killed herself in a really messed up way to avoid prison time for the assault on Max that ended his life."
bloodlips August 12, 2012 at 08:29 AM
Actually, now the story reads that motive for murder has been admitted by someone whose location may have been identified at the murder scene. Busted.
True that August 15, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Yeah, and that person was Rebecca Zahau.
Scary lady August 15, 2012 at 06:58 PM
If you just review all the facts and motivations, D and N emerge as the clear answer.
Review August 19, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Ann Rule's been forced to change her book. She removed the entire blurb about possible "suspects" into the babysitter's death, and seems to concede that Max may have been murdered. Interesting, but the initial blurb made her look bad. It was full of errors and assumptions. I won't be buying it.
Kerri Saylors-Higgins February 22, 2014 at 01:47 PM
Ann Rule has a "tingle in her neck"...? My hair is standing on end. It is rare to see such arrogant LE and ME tunnel vision. Even in these semi police-state days, or not so "semi", if you prefer. Evidence and science do not lie: people do. Max is a homicide victim. All that followed spiraled from this event. Rebecca is a homicide victim. Figure out the why to this, SDSO.


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