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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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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