Suspect Adam Shacknai sits in court in San Diego in February. He was convicted in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Rebecca Zahau’s family and ordered to pay $5M
A jury has held a millionaire boyfriend’s brother responsible for the death of Rebecca Zahau, whose nude, bound body was found hanging at a San Diego mansion in 2011.
Adam Shacknai dropped his head as the verdicts were read Wednesday, according to the Union-Tribune.
The brother of pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai must pay Zahau’s family $5 million for the loss of her love and companionship, jurors ruled.
“[I] asked Mary at the end of the day, ‘Wow, what do we do? … We got a verdict,'” the family’s attorney Keith Greer said during a press conference.
“And she says, ‘We got to get the case reopened, that’s it.’ Our job’s not done yet,” according to an ABC News report.
Rebecca Zahau died under mysterious circumstances in 2011
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Office says it’s open to reviewing evidence in the case, but stands by the findings of investigators and medical examiners.
It had been believed that Zahau took her own life because she was distraught over the fatal fall suffered by Jonah Shacknai’s 6-year-old son at the mansion days before.
“This has always been about getting the sheriff to reopen this,” Greer said. “Adam Shacknai doesn’t have money. This isn’t about money. It’s about getting the Sheriff’s Department to open this up, do their job. This clearly isn’t a suicide.”
The victim’s family of had filed a $10 million lawsuit claiming she was murdered. After the verdict, her sister Mary Zahau-Loehner and other family members are hoping that authorities will reopen the criminal investigation. A coroner had called the 32-year-old Zahau’s death a suicide.
6-year-old Max Shacknai died after falling down the stairs at his billionaire father’s mansion, the same house where Rebecca Zahau was found dead – Rebecca was the only adult in the home at the time
The jury held the 54-year-old Adam Shacknai responsible for Zahau’s death in a 9-3 vote. Greer argued that Shacknai struck Zahau on the head, sexually assaulted and strangled her, and then staged the hanging.
“Why did Adam Shacknai brutally murder Rebecca Zahau?” Greer said in court Monday, according to the Union-Tribune. “It’s one of the oldest reasons in the world — sex.”
Adam Shacknai, who had come to the California home after his nephew’s fall, said he found Zahau’s naked body hanging by a rope from a balcony, and cut her down.
But Zahau’s family always believed her death was suspicious, pointing to her ex-boyfriend’s family members.
On July 13, 2011, Zahau, 32, was found naked with her feet bound, hands tied behind her back and a shirt stuffed in her mouth, hanging from the second story balcony outside her room.
Detectives found a book on a shelf in her room titled “Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft,” which showed drawings of a rite — a naked woman with her hands tied behind her back. A cryptic message — “She saved him, can you save her” — was scrawled in black paint in block lettering on the door of her room.
Only she and Adam Shacknai were staying at on the mansion ground the night she died. He said he didn’t go into the main house until the next morning, on July 13, 2011, when he discovered Zahau’s body. He cut her down from the rope and called 911.
Rebecca Zahau [left], had been living with suspect’s brother Jonah Shacknai [right], in the ill-fated San Diego mansion
Evidence in the bedroom where Rebecca Zahau last entered before she was found hanging from a balcony.
San Diego authorities at the time said Rebecca Zahau killed herself because she was distraught over a fatal fall that Shacknai’s 6-year-old son suffered at the house two days earlier. She had been the only adult in the house two days earlier when Jonah and Dina Shacknai’s 6-year-old son Max fell from an inside staircase and suffered massive injuries. Max died several days later. Zahau’s younger sister also was in the house, and both told police they didn’t see the boy’s fall.
Zahau had been living for about two years with Jonah Shacknai, founder of Arizona based biotech company, Medicis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
According to a report by U-T San Diego, Their civil lawsuit claims Jonah’s ex-wife Dina Shacknai, his brother Adam Shacknai and Dina Shacknai’s twin sister, Nina Romano, were jointly responsible for Zahau’s death.
Investigators recreate Zahau’s hanging in court
The balcony where Rebecca Zahau allegedly hung herself, according to Adam Shacknai. The court disagreed with his version of events
The lawsuit doesn’t provide any specific evidence against the three, but alleges “defendants planned and prepared to batter and murder Rebecca and did thereafter brutally, and with malice aforethought, stalk, attack, choke, bound and hang” Zahau at the mansion belonging to her billionaire boyfriend.
Jonah Shacknai was not named in the lawsuit.
No criminal charges were filed in the case.
Adam Shacknai was staying in a guesthouse at his brother’s mansion at the time of Zahau’s death. Dina Shacknai was staying in a separate vacation home a few blocks away, while her twin, Nina Romano had flown in from Sacramento to be with her sister.
Adam Shacknai told police he found Zahau hanging by a rope from a second-story balcony at the mansion, and cut her down. Her hands were bound behind her back, her feet were bound and a T-shirt was wrapped around her lower face.
His death was ruled accidental. Max