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.


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Robert Mack July 28, 2012 at 10:33 AM
Why the rush to destroy the crime scene? Shacknai is still the owner yet he denied the Zahau family access so they could get answers. What was he hiding? Why change the name of his boat? Why destroy Rebecca's vehicle? Why the lies and the hiding? Real Answers to Real questions and justice for Rebecca Zahau!
Sweet Pea July 30, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Robert, Anne Bremner had an entire year to go through the mansion with real investigators (not Dr. Phil). She chose not to. Why? Who is the adult who has come forward with an attack of violence on his/her person by Rebecca Zahau? How is this relevant to Max's fatal injuries? Why don't the Zahaus mention the fact that Rebecca was a jiu-jitsu expert? Were any other children ever hurt while under the care of a Zahau family member? Why did Xena have dry hair if she claimed she was in the shower when Max got hurt? Why did Xena change her story multiple times? Why did Rebecca? Why did they go shopping while Max was dying? Why did Xena go hiding in another state while Jonah's credit card was still hot? Why did Rebecca freak out over food items like Dr. Pepper? Why was Max petrified of eating? Why did Jonah's friends contact Dina with concerns about Rebecca's relationship with Max? Real answers to real questions. That's what we need to know. RIP Max. Justice is coming.
Sweet Pea July 30, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Bring on another investigation, Robert. Can you take it? What will you do when you find out the babysitter you are in love with mortally wounded a child? What will you do when you find out why she chose the method she did to kill herself? What will you do when more information come out about Rebecca's odd relationship with little Max? Blow the investigation open wide. Let the truth come forth. RIP Max. Justice IS coming.
jessica July 31, 2012 at 04:26 AM
@Robert Mack- I never read he changed the name of his boat, but if he did, how is that significant? How does that show he is hiding something? He did not change his name like Rebecca. Please show a link that he destroyed Rebecca's vehicle. Through this whole thing, I really feel the one person(besides her parents) who unconditionally loved Rebecca is Jonah.
Robert Mack July 31, 2012 at 08:45 AM
Jessica - The info you asked for is public record (available to anyone with interest to look for it) just because Radar online or Jonah's PR people didn't hold a press conf or put out a press release does not mean it didnt happen. Luckily for us others are paying attention. Also Jessica, thank you for the laugh.. Jonah cared about Rebecca? Nice to know there are still women with low standards out there. What has Jonah done that shows he cared for Rebecca? Are you talking about the all of 20k he spent on her funeral and airfare? LOL. Jonah owns watches with 5x as much. Heck he even spent more than that on his dog. Not a sign of caring in my opinion. What kind of statement has he made? Or was it him threatening to sue her grieving that showed his love and devotion to his slaughtered GF? As far as the significance of all the game playing and lies.. Well we can all take guesses, or we can get an investigation that digs deep and discovers the truth. I think Rebecca and her family deserve the truth. Real answers to Real questions and Justice for Rebecca Zahau.
Robert Mack July 31, 2012 at 09:01 AM
Will Dina's investigation (in the name of truth and transparency ) disclose the other Shacknai childrens boarding passes and at least one other form of confirmable proof they were not at the home that fateful morning? Will the other Shacknai children and the other two people be made or asked to submit to a LDT? A new investigation will confirm all of this, including analyzing evidence that suggest the other two children were not only present but did not fly out until much later than reported. Real Answers to Real Questions and Justice for Rebecca Zahau and Max Shacknai.
Robert Mack July 31, 2012 at 09:18 AM
Why did Jonah call Dina and not his brother back after being texted this dreadful news about this woman he had unconditional love for? Why didn't he respond WHAT, WHERE, HOW, WHY? Why didn't he call his dear brother back and say, hurry call 911.. But instead.. because he was off guard and in the dark not knowing what happened to his lovely girlfriend instead called to chat with his ex-wife? Perfectly normal behavior I guess.. LOL. Real Answers to Real questions and Justice for Rebecca Zahau and Max Shacknai.
Robert Mack July 31, 2012 at 09:28 AM
Why if Nina thought it was so important to interrogate Rebecca that night that she walked there in a fervor did she ring the bell a half dozen times then just leave? Why didn't she call or leave another text for Rebecca? Why didnt she call or leave a text for Adam? She had walked all that way late at night. Why did nobody call or text Rebecca after that time? Nobody except "supposedly" Jonah, and that call can't be confirmed. Where was the person Nina was talking on the phone with actually located? Where was Nina's grown child? If none of the doors were locked how come Nina never went in? Why did someone who saw a woman describe someone other than Nina, wearing different clothes with a different bag, but got the time right?
Rosemary July 31, 2012 at 11:26 PM
That's not what happened, Robert. Dina saw Jonah sobbing by Max's bedside and that's when she found out Rebecca had killed herself. When doctors found out Rebecca had killed herself, they then told Dina and Jonah that CPS had been investigating Rebecca. Up until that point, no one but Rebecca knew CPS was looking into what she did to Max. Also, Adam texted Jonah after he called 911, not before. Don't make things up. RIP Max. Justice IS coming.
jessica August 01, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Maybe he is not making a statement to protect Xena and the Zahau's. Alot of info is out there that can only hurt the Zahau family. If he makes a public statement, it could go either way...He has not stopped you guys from saying what you want about him has he? In my opinion it is better for him to stay neutral...look what happens to everyone who speaks out.
McD court August 01, 2012 at 04:59 PM
More lies and covering from "jessica" Macbeth. A bunch of garbage from an "independent" investigation will mean nothing except that it will put the S/R families at odds with the generous findings of LE. That may serve to hasten their demise.
Myrus August 01, 2012 at 10:25 PM
jessica aka K, 1. Adam did not call Jonah its in the record. 2. Adam was not allowed to use the phone. How do you know what he was or was not allowed to do? All you know is what has been made public. 3. Why would Jonah say anything publicly? Maybe because he was the murdered woman's boyfriend, maybe because he was the home owner, or maybe because that is what an innocent people would do. 3. Xena was interviewed twice and always told the same thing. She is also a minor, not a grown man with something to hide. 4. Jonah is far from "brilliance". Naive and stupid jessica, please check your face for crap because you have your head so far up someone's butt you might have gotten some on you. The truth will come when they reopen the investigation and nail these sick cowards to the wall.
Aj Schneller August 02, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Jennifer do you know if the rumor Larry M is looking at these cases is true?
jessica August 02, 2012 at 06:22 AM
The Zahau's were releasing things a little at a time and changing and editing what was released. What is wrong with saying if they continued to do that then let the entirety of the files be released? They were playing dirty, and he was decent enough to warn them. He did not sue anyone, he could have and he would have been in the right if he did. Why were bits released and not the entire thing? Why won't they release all of the files?
Tim Canerday August 02, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Scott Aurich is being a typical shady real estate agent and jessica is being a typical friend who knows the killer and doesn't want her friend in jail for life. The truth about how Maxie died is he was being a kid and fell over the stair railing head first. The sinister part definitely came after that fact with killing the woman and the comments and cover up since.
Tim Canerday August 02, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Shacknai wishes he could silence Robert Mack but he doesn't have that kind of power.
jessica August 03, 2012 at 12:46 AM
The generous findings were that Rebecca Zahau commited suicide. Confirmed by her autopsy report.
Lying eyes August 03, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Put up or shut it, jessica. All this "coming soon." What and when? You've got nothing, so nothing is coming. Just the same old garbage for one year. Rebecca's autopsy was dated 9/2/11, which means it waited 7 weeks to be signed? We know how it covered up. Go ahead, mess with success. See where it gets you. LOL
Tripp August 03, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Jessica, your hatred for Rebecca is disgraceful. Do you EVER listen to yourself? You know nothing, yet continue to berate Rebecca Zahau. It seems you have taken on the ugly jealousy of the Romano twins. Knock down Rebecca at all costs? Can you see how distasteful they look, or are you too far gone?
jessica August 03, 2012 at 07:26 PM
"Put up or shut it"??? What does that even mean? You are mistaken...Rebecca's autopsy was dated 9/2/11- yes the same garbage from the murder posse for one year. You think the autopsy report was part of a cover up? How many agencies are part of this "cover up" ha ha ha, how can the signs Rebecca's body showed upon death be a cover up???
jessica August 03, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Berate Rebecca? Knock Rebecca down? Have you ever read your own site??? You have said the most hateful, disrespectful and jealous things about her. The Romanos have no reason to be jealous of anyone. Are you serious, asking me about distasteful??? Guess you weren't reading your own posts when you wrote "Maybelline Monster" and "Dragon Woman who commited her own honor killing." Distasteful and jealous is what the murder posse writes about Dina, Jonah and Maxie. Writing that I believe Rebecca commited suicide and that Max's death did not happen as told is NOT distasteful or hateful. The things you have written about everyone involved, (Rebecca and Xena the most ) are. There are actual warnings about you online.
jessica August 03, 2012 at 07:47 PM
The Romano twins have NEVER said anything about Rebecca Zahau. Even when asked, Dina refused to talk about it. Unlike MZ who spilled all of her jealousy on national tv, and made Rebecca look quite jealous of Dina in the process. There was NOTHING to be jealous of.
Bitter Bitter Lash August 03, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Tripp, you don't even know the Shacknais or the Romanos. It's laughable to read what you pathetic, bitter women have to say about a successful, compassionate woman like Dr. Dina Shacknai. Sucks that you and your cronies will never be as educated or successful as she is. No one has to knock down the babysitter. Her criminal past kind of speaks for itself. That, and the dead little boy she left alone on the floor while she staged scooters and soccer balls. RIP Max.
The Light Fantastic August 03, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Tripp, your hatred for the Romanos is disgraceful. Do you ever listen to YOURSELF?
check the date August 07, 2012 at 01:02 AM
It was a re-write to fit the cover. That's why the date was same as the SDSO PC. They didn't risk ANYTHING because they prefaced their findings with "you can never really know" and therefore reduced them to an educated and probably biased guess to fit the forgiveness they were extending to the S/R families. At the same time they were letting themselves off the hook for having to prosecute a wealthy and well-connected person. It would be OJ all over again with the cops defending themselves. Easy way out, and they can't really be blamed for that. Pretty smart.
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.


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