Rebecca Zahau, 32, was found hanging from the second-floor balcony of her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai’s California mansion in the summer of 2011
Jonah’s brother, Adam Shacknai, was the person to discover her body and call the police
Coroner ruled her death a suicide twice, but Zahau’s family suspected foul play
‘This is the kind of thing where I knew I hadn’t done anything. I knew I was 1,000% innocent,’ he said, maintaining his innocence
He regrets not speaking out before the trial and is now to ‘establish myself as a real person and not a figment of something created by some lawyers’
He was found legally responsible for her death by a jury in April 201 – He planned to appeal that verdict, but the judgement was thrown out
The case was dismissed after Zahau’s family reached a settlement with Shacknai’s insurance company
Rebecca Zahau was found naked, gagged and hanged in the Coronado mansion belonging to her boyfriend on July 13, 2011. Her death was ruled suicide, but her family believes it’s murder and filed a wrongful death suit
The Tennessee man who was found legally responsible for the death of his brother’s 32-year-old mistress in California is speaking out to defend his name and maintain his innocence.
Rebecca Zahau was discovered naked, gagged and with ropes around her ankles and wrists in the Coronado mansion of her boyfriend, millionaire pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai on July 13, 2011. Jonah’s brother Adam Shacknai, a 56-year-old tugboat pilot from Tennessee, discovered her hanging body and called 911.
The coroner twice opened investigations in the death and twice ruled it a suicide.
Zahau was found dead just two days after Max Shacknai, her boyfriend’s six-year-old son, fell down the stairs and suffered traumatic head injuries that led to his death, while she was looking after him.
Little did he know that he’d later be found responsible by a jury seven years later of her hanging death, Adam Shacknai said, even though investigators ruled otherwise. He was never arrested nor faced a criminal trial in her death.
Investigators from the San Diego County Sheriff office ruled Rebecca Zahau’s death a suicide, saying the ophthalmologist killed herself, racked with guilt over Max’s devastating injuries.
Her family however, disputed the findings and argued Adam Shacknai beat his brother’s girlfriend, sexually assaulted her and strangled her, possibly as payback for his nephew’s injury. Then he staged her death to appear as a suicide.
Throughout the high-profile case, Adam Shacknai kept a low profile, but now he’s speaking out in a TV interview to declare his innocence.
‘This is the kind of thing where I knew I hadn’t done anything. I knew I was 1000% innocent,’ Adam Shacknai said in an exclusive interview with Real Life Nightmares
‘This is the kind of thing where I knew I hadn’t done anything. I knew I was 1,000% innocent,’ Shacknai said in an exclusive interview with Real Life Nightmares that will air Saturday on HLN.
‘I wish I had thought of it as a possibility that there could have been a lawsuit fortuitous, malicious lawsuit with no merit. I would have been on TV 24/7 the way they were, especially at the beginning, to at least establish myself as a real person and not a figment of something created by some lawyers,’ he added.
San Diego Sheriff’s office ruled Zahau’s death a suicide in 2011. A second review conducted in December 2018 reached the same conclusion.
Still, Zahau’s family disputed the findings, believing someone must have murdered the ophthalmic technician, and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Shacknai’s brother Adam.
Investigators believed Zahau took her own life overcome with guilt over Max’s injury. The suffered severe brain injuries after falling from a staircase on July 11, 2011, which left him in the hospital. Zahau, who lived at the mansion with her boyfriend, was the only adult home at the time.
Authorities said Zahau died shortly after receiving a voicemail that said the Max’s condition had worsened and he wasn’t likely to survive.
Max died several days later on July 16, 2011. His death was ruled accidental.
Shacknai’s brother had come to California after his nephew was injured and was staying in the mansion’s guest house. He called 911 after finding Zahau and cutting her down before reportedly trying to administer CPR.
At first he thought he saw something strange hanging in the air. Upon a closer look he said: ‘I just thought, man. Okay. That was Rebecca hanging.’
I’m going to go and do everything I can. That was my brother’s girlfriend. And while 911 was on the phone I guess I told them to hold on or something and I cut her down. I got a table, cut her down,’ he said.
Investigators believe Zahau loosely bound her wrists, took one arm out and put both arms behind her back before tightening the noose. Investigators said footprints on the dusty balcony and DNA on a knife, rope and bedposts helped them reach the conclusion.
Officers who responded to the scene found a pair of knives, black paint, brushes, and a cryptic message painted on the door that read: ‘She saved him can you save her.’
County authorities said they found no evidence such as fingerprints, DNA or footprints that belonged to anyone but Zahau.
A lawyer for Zahau’s family, C. Keith Greer, argued that Adam Shacknai [left] beat his brother’s girlfriend on the head, sexually assaulted her and strangled her. He was motivated by a possibly revenge for his nephew Max’s [right] accident
In April 2018, a jury found Adam Shacknai liable for the death and awarded more than $5 million to Zahau’s mother – contradicting investigators’ findings that she took her own life.
But San Diego County sheriff’s officials said they stood by the original investigation, saying Zahau took her own life because of the guilt she felt over Max’s accident.
‘We conducted an objective and thorough investigation into Miss Zahau’s death,’ the sheriff’s department said in a statement to People magazine.
‘The facts of that investigation have led to the conclusion that Miss Zahau took her own life.
Responding officers arrived to find Zahau’s body sprawled on the ground [circle] at the Coronado mansion
Shacknai was allegedly outraged with the settlement saying the insurance company made the deal without his knowledge. He told NBC 7 the settlement was for $600,000.
Zahau’s family attorney said in May that they were mulling legal action against the San Diego County Sheriff and preparing to petition the medical examiner’s office to change Zahau’s cause of death from suicide to homicide, Fox News reported.
Shacknai’s interview with air on Real Life Nightmare on HLN Saturday December 7