In July, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau was found hanging from the balcony of her 54-year-old pharmaceutical billionaire boyfriend Jonah Shacknai's mansion in Coronado, California. Zahau was naked, with a t-shirt wrapped around her neck, her hands tied behind her back, and her feet bound. Now authorities are insisting that her death was a suicide, even though her family says the evidence doesn't add up.
Zahau's death was preceded by a terrible accident that took the life of her boyfriend's 6-year-old son Max. While Zahau was watching the boy on July 11, he tripped and fell over a balcony at the top of the mansion's grand staircase. She performed CPR on him while her 13-year-old sister called an ambulance. Five days later, he died from his injuries.
Two days after the accident, her body was discovered by her boyfriend's brother, Adam Shacknai, who had been staying in the guest house. Jonah was at his son's bedside at the time. According to Forbes, Adam says he cut Zahau down, untied the rope that bound her hands, removed the gag, and performed CPR before calling 911.
Though initially police said Zahau's death was suspicious, at a press conference on Friday they announced that she'd committed suicide. To answer any questions about how one might bind her own wrists behind her back, they released videos of a woman showing how Zahau could have tied a complicated knot around her wrists, wriggled one hand free, and then put the ropes back on while her hands were behind her back. The video doesn't show how she did this after tying her own feet, putting a noose around her neck, wrapping a t-shirt over the noose and gagging herself with a sleeve, and knotting the other end of the rope to the leg of a bed.
There are other suspicous details that have many people playing armchair Agatha Christie. There were scratches and abrasions on Zahau's skin that could have been defensive wounds. The knots ostensibly used by Zahau are commonly used on boats, and Adam works on a tug boat. There were four hemorrhaging injuries on Zahau's scalp that may have occured when she was still alive. Jonah had a history of domestic abuse against his ex-wife. This week police police revealed there's even more strange information about the case. There was tape residue on her legs and the message "She Saved Him. Can He Save Her?" was scrawled on the bedroom door in black paint. Zahau's family says the phrase isn't written in her handwriting.
Dr. Jonathan Lucas, the deputy medical examiner, says that despite these details, there's no reason to suspect anything other than suicide. "As in any comprehensive investigation, some findings cannot be entirely explained," he said. However, Zahau's family has hired a lawyer and asked police to reopen the case. They told ABC News that she had no history of depression or psychiatric problems, never said she felt guilty about Max's accident, and was against suicide for religious reasons. The family's lawyer adds that, "there has never been a reported suicide of a female like this." Yet, for some reason, police have decided that there's no reason to keep investigating the bizarre circumstances surrounding Zahau's death.
Billionaire's Girlfriend's Last Note Inconsistent with Suicide [Forbes]
CORONADO DEATH INVESTIGATION [San Diego Sheriff]
More Details Released On Death At Coronado Mansion [LAT]
Rebecca Zahau Autopsy Reveals Startling Details [ABC News]
Images via San Diego County Sheriff's Department