Spreckels One Year Later: The Community Carries On

Last July investigators crowded around the mansion at 1043 Ocean Blvd. trying to unwind the mystery surrounding a woman's death and a boy's grave injuries. Now the historic home stands empty, awaiting a buyer.

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 the storied home connected to them, an upcoming book and Zahau's loved ones, who continue to maintain she did not kill herself.  

The seaside mansion is in a state of flux. Work on the 12,750-square-foot residence is expected to continue through year's end. A didn't fly. 

So with the old roof replaced by new tile, it remains, unmistakably, the Spreckels mansion, the stately oceanfront compound that for a time last summer became known not for its storied history, but for the tragedies that took place on its grounds.

A year ago Wednesday a six-year-old boy fell inside the mansion, suffering injuries that would ultimately kill him. Two days later, a woman was found dead, naked and bound, in the courtyard to the rear of the multi-million dollar home.

To , the deaths served as their introduction to the Spreckels mansion, as satellite trucks camped on Ocean Boulevard and cable talk show hosts dissected the cases night after night.

For a while, the home, named for San Diego land baron John D. Spreckels, became entwined with the names Rebecca Zahau, 32, whose death was ruled a suicide by hanging, and Max Shacknai, 6, whose fall was found to be an accident.

“It's a very unusual case and very unusual for this town,” Coronado police Chief Louis Scanlon told Patch Tuesday. “It was unusual and sensational irrespective of where it took place.”

Real estate agent Scott Aurich, who has worked with homeowner Jonah Shacknai – Max's father and Zahau's boyfriend – argues, like Scanlon, that a year later, Coronado has turned the page.

“I don't hear anybody referring to anything that happened in the house,” Aurich said. “I haven't heard that for a long time.”

Shacknai, who founded Medicis (NYSE:MRX), an Arizona pharmaceuticals company, continues to have an agreement to sell the home, while a development team with plans to flip it renovates it. Aurich is seeking another buyer and says he receives calls daily inquiring about the historic property, which is listed for $15.5 million.

In addition to the new roof, workers have replaced the 104-year-old mansion's plumbing and electrical systems – though they were hindered by its concrete block walls – and gutted the kitchen in preparation for a revamp. The living quarters have been altered, reducing part of the space from six bedrooms to four; work to restore or replace the wood on the windows has been completed.

“It takes a lot of imagination,” Aurich said, to visualize a transformed Spreckels. 

“Then when it's finished it will sparkle,” he said. 

That could once again be the reason people stop and stare at the Spreckels mansion – to admire its gleam, its design and its history. Those who were drawn to Spreckels to ponder its scandals seem to have trickled away. 

“I think for at least several weeks after the event a lot of people specifically were going to the house,” Scanlon said. “You'd see a lot of people pointing at it and people pulling over on the side of the road, but I think that's pretty much over with.”

Next: On Thursday, author Ann Rule discusses her upcoming book on the Zahau and Shacknai investigations and media observers talk about what made the cases such a sensation last year.


Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook | Sign up for our daily newsletter

jessica August 07, 2012 at 05:54 AM
Regarding Max Shacknai-"the manner of death is not accurate. It would be more accurate to certify that manner as homicide, where homicide is defined as death by the hands of another. He was assaulted and as a result of the assault Maxfield Shacknai moved or was moved over the railing causing him to fall to the first floor level, and as a result of his contact with the first floor, he sustained his skull fracture."-KFMB TV San Diego R.I.P. Little Maxie, GOD BLESS Dina
Crazy is... August 09, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Dina is a basket case by now. Six months in hiding, she's a hate-monster unleashed by her shady sister and enabled by her hired guns. Think she's going long-term? LOL No way. Her flame is flickering. It's over. Dr. Dina needs a shrink.
sugar rush August 10, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Actually it was Rebecca who was assaulted by people who were given a false diagnosis by a doctor who was later proven to be wrong by a medical examiner. The child had a habit of hyperactivity witnessed by all who knew him. Maybe too much candy from the ever-full candy drawer?
Maybelline August 10, 2012 at 02:46 AM
The only assault the babysitter suffered was by a case of eyeshadow. RIP Max. Justice will be served.
Maybelline August 10, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Why waste your time here, Crazy? (oh, the irony). Casey Anthony's always looking for fans to write her letters.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something