.

True-Crime Author: ‘We the Public Don’t Know Everything’ on Zahau Case

Part 4 in a series: “Lost Girls” writer doesn’t doubt sheriff’s word but shares some concerns.

Sheriff Bill Gore is a thoughtful person who runs a department that did great work in the Amber Dubois-Chelsea King cases, says Caitlin Rother, author of Lost Girls, the book on rapist-murderer John Gardner and his teen victims.

“I think he’s a good man,” Rother says of Gore. “I think he takes great care in the decisions that he makes.”

Rother had extensive contact with members of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department in researching Lost Girls. At the end of the book, she thanked Gore and several sheriff’s investigators for their cooperation.

Returning the admiration was Russ Moore, a longtime member of the department whose review of Lost Girls appeared in the August 2012 issue of Silver Star. [See attached PDF]

“If police agencies want to see how to manage a high-profile case, they should make this book mandatory reading for their investigators,” Moore wrote. “Reading the exploits of our Homicide Unit and Command Staff should make everyone proud.”

But Rother is a wary and experienced crime reporter, and she harbors doubts on another case.

Did Rebecca Zahau really commit suicide at the Spreckels mansion in Coronado? 

“People keep asking me” about looking into the case of the death of the nude and bound woman, Rother says. The death was declared a suicide by hanging by the Sheriff’s Department amid wide suspicions otherwise.

Rother says she tells people: “It’s not a murder. If the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t say it’s a murder, I can’t write about it. My publisher won’t take the case unless there’s a conviction.”

Liability issues are a chief concern, she said. Accusing someone of murder is fodder for legal action.

“Not only was there not a conviction, there wasn’t an arrest,” Rother notes.

Still, she says she was “really thinking” of writing about it but demurred since “I just didn’t feel like I would want to take a chance of getting sued.”

When asked whether she thinks Zahau’s death was a suicide, Rother says: “I have no idea. I haven’t looked at the evidence.” But Rother does have a copy of the autopsy report—a pretty long one, she notes.

Acknowledging that she followed the case “very closely,” Rother says it “does kind of boggle the mind that you would find a young naked woman who would do that to herself.”

Rother says she tells people that police agencies “always know things they don’t release. We the public don’t know everything [on Zahau].”

As far as the suicide verdict, Rother says the Sheriff’s Department, aided by the FBI, “don’t make these statements lightly. Bill Gore does not make statements lightly. … I think he takes great care in the decisions that he makes.”

But Rother’s decades of experience as a reporter and crime writer leaves her with a nagging doubt.

“I do kind of wonder sometimes that once [law enforcement] has an idea in their head, they don’t [veer] from it,” she said in an interview last month. “If that’s happening in this case, they should reopen it.”

She speculated that police might be trying to protect the privacy of the Zahau family—“even though they don’t want” privacy.

“I guarantee you that there’s stuff that we don’t know. … Whether they are right or not, I don’t know,” she said. “I know there are a lot of people in the community who don’t believe that [this] is suicide.”

Rother is aware that other crime writers—notably Ann Rule—have taken on the Zahau case. Rule included a chapter in a recent book on the Spreckels mansion mystery, calling it a homicide.

But unlike Rule and fellow true-crime writer Mark Fuhrman (of O.J. Simpson case fame), who are both former police officers or detectives, Rother says she doesn’t have the “credibility” to undertake stories like Zahau.

“I can’t just start investigating,” she said. “If there’s no trial, for example, it’s pretty hard.”

What she learned from the John Gardner case in Lost Girls was “I thought it was going to be easier to write about because it didn’t go to trial.”

In fact, it was much harder, she said, since documents normally used at trial weren’t available.

“I had to do all these end runs to get documents that I’d normally get out of court exhibits,” she said.

Monday: The Firestorm That Fizzled: ‘Lost Girls’ Author Defused Mother of Victim

Tuesday: Of Mice and Monsters: How Caitlin Rother Grew Up to Be a True-Crime Author

Wednesday: Killer Interview: Author Found a ‘Totally Friendly, Charming’ John Gardner

Thursday: Caitlin Rother takes an interest in Coronado’s Rebecca Zahau case.

Friday: How Killer of Chelsea Tried to Turn Himself In—and Was Refused

Says it All February 28, 2013 at 05:35 PM
So, we find out the FBI was involved, too. And THEY said SUICIDE. Pretty much tells you it was a SUICIDE, huh?
BBL February 28, 2013 at 06:18 PM
No, what I take from the article is that Rother point blank admitted that she would be sued if she tried to go against the grain. She was not willing to stick her neck out, which seems cowardly since she has doubts. Doesn't really tell us anything. I'm not one to go on blind faith when there are so many inconsistencies with the evidence. This was a weird article and I'm not sure why it was even written. Did Gore ask for it?
BBL February 28, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Interesting timing too....
Au Contraire February 28, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Reading comprehension 101. Rother said that she can't form an opinion without all the evidence, and that the evidence is being kept hidden to protect the Zahau family's privacy. There is a lot of unpleasant information in that file. The Zahaus should be thankful Gore doesn't wish to embarrass them.
Au Contraire February 28, 2013 at 06:50 PM
She should have been asked if she thought Max's death was suspicious. Perhaps after the trial she will write a book about that.
Says it All February 28, 2013 at 07:15 PM
The Zahaus have all the files and could release them if they wanted to. They don't want to because it proves that Rebecca had depression and problems, and THAT wouldn't help them get money out of Millionaire Jonah Shacknai.
Says it All February 28, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Oh, I hope so. And rumor has it that Aphrodite Jones is working with Jonah Shacknai on a book. Maybe now we'll get the real truth, unlike what we got in Rule's book.
BBL February 28, 2013 at 07:23 PM
"Local true crime author weighs in on Spreckels mansion case – she'd like to see what, if anything, investigators are holding back." Which is the whole point... what was held back and what wasn't investigated?
Au Contraire February 28, 2013 at 07:42 PM
She didn't say anything wasn't investigated. She said they are holding back information to the public in order to protect the Zahau family. It could be information like the fact that a child allegedly was hurt while under the care of a Zahau family member before. Who knows?
Says it All February 28, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Ah, good old BBL, our resident conspiracy theorist!
Says it All February 28, 2013 at 08:11 PM
MUST be a SET UP, huh BBBBBLLLLLL?
Says it All February 28, 2013 at 08:12 PM
I have heard that rumor before, too. Wonder if it is true?
BBL February 28, 2013 at 08:59 PM
But... Dina accuses Xena and Rebecca of murder. That was ruled an accident.
Says it All February 28, 2013 at 09:53 PM
But...there will be an arrest for Max's murder...SOON.
BBL February 28, 2013 at 11:35 PM
So, Dina got the case reopened?
yogapants March 01, 2013 at 12:22 PM
The FBI was never involved in this case. Never.
BBL March 01, 2013 at 09:21 PM
“I do kind of wonder sometimes that once [law enforcement] has an idea in their head, they don’t [veer] from it,” she said in an interview last month. “If that’s happening in this case, they should reopen it.”
Stolen Jewelry March 01, 2013 at 09:30 PM
So you are saying Rother is lying? So she's in on the "conspiracy"?
Stolen Jewelry March 01, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Right, the FBI, SDSO, and Jonah's investigators all came to the same conclusion...the ONLY conclusion...SUICIDE.
Bourne Yesterday March 04, 2013 at 11:44 PM
MAXIE'S LAW Help protect children from people like Rebecca Zahau. http://www.youtube.com/embed/og7LXLkMhpw
Bourne Yesterday March 04, 2013 at 11:44 PM
How about a story on the need for Maxie's Law, Jennifer Vigil?
Suicide Correct Ruling March 12, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Quote from Anne Bremner on her Facebook page in response to a question by Carlilta McLaren-Manson, 2/28/13: "We worked pro bono for over a year. Went to the AG, police, DA, everyone. Exhausted each and every public remedy. Now we are working with lawyers in San Diego. Same zeal. Same clients. Same lawyers. Same quest for justice." So looks like in the end, its all about bilking $ of of Jonah Shacknai. Even though Anne admits the AG and DA found NO merit to their claims, and felt the investigation was done properly and the conclusion was correct (just read Ann Rule's "fairytale"), looks like Mary Zahau is still out for $$$$$. Why else would they still have lawyers when everyone has told them there was NO MURDER?
runaways March 14, 2013 at 09:34 PM
runaways 2:30 pm on Thursday, March 14, 2013 Xena's arrival isn't a mystery. It was all planned. Gabby and Ethan flying to Phoenix on REALLY short notice the day before a planned party, and just "before" Maxie's fall, now that's HIGHLY coincidental. And then Gabby is hustled off to Canada then Africa more than a month before it was planned, and she doesn't even attend Maxie's funeral or fly back to visit him in the hospital for the rest of the week? And Ethan gets pulled out of Phoenix Day School and put into a Christian school even though he had his Bar Mitzvah? Some crazy family movement going on there. Why were they sequestered for the rest of the Summer with Jonah at home? Afraid they would spill before the phoney press conference? We know who caused Maxie to fall and ran away. When Dina realizes all this, she'll flip!
PatTheRat April 03, 2013 at 02:11 PM
And how do you know there was "NO MURDER"??? Woman commits suicide by tying her hands behind her back, puts a t-shirt around her neck and stuffed into her mouth, and ties a rope that is anchored to a bed in another room and somehow manages to hop onto a balcony railing and jumps to her death? No way.
World's Most Bizarre Suicide!!!! May 07, 2013 at 01:18 AM
The case was determined to be a SUICIDE by REAL detectives with REAL brains, and has been reviewed and TURNED DOWN by the CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE...TWICE...because it was a SUICIDE AND WILL ALWAYS BE A SUICIDE.
World's Most Bizarre Suicide!!!! May 07, 2013 at 01:19 AM
Julie Garland, the senior supervising deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice laughed at the numerous theories on things that "could" or "might" have happened not backed up by any ACTUAL evidence. "...nothing has been bought to light that necessitates reopening the investigation into the suicide of Rebecca Zahau. As a result, the matter will remain closed, and the Department will consider the matter concluded."
World's Most Bizarre Suicide!!!! May 07, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Framing someone innocent won't change the fact that Rebecca was a kinkster who was into bondage, killed a child, then hung herself naked.
World's Most Bizarre Suicide!!!! May 07, 2013 at 01:21 AM
Acknowledging that she followed the case “very closely,” Rother says it “does kind of boggle the mind that you would find a young naked woman who would do that to herself.” Rother says she tells people that police agencies “always know things they don’t release. We the public don’t know everything [on Zahau].” As far as the suicide verdict, Rother says the Sheriff’s Department, aided by the FBI, “don’t make these statements lightly. Bill Gore does not make statements lightly. … I think he takes great care in the decisions that he makes.”
World's Most Bizarre Suicide!!!! May 07, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Nina Shacknai's fingerprints and DNA were found on the: - Paint brushes - Paint tubes - Bed leg - Door frame - Rope knots I'm POSITIVE the murder posse will say that Adam Shacknai did NOT do it...that that DNA and those fingerprints don't prove anything and they will fight for his innocence. Oh wait, the DNA and fingerprints were all from REBECCA ZAHAU. I forgot. Nevermind.
World's Most Bizarre Suicide!!!! May 07, 2013 at 01:22 AM
It is obvious that Rebecca Zahau killed herself and felt guilty over Max. What did she and/or Xena do to him?

Boards

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