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SDSO: Zahau's Official Cause of Death Remains Suicide

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will not reopen the investigation into the 2011 death of Rebecca Zahau at Spreckels Mansion and the official cause of her death will remain a suicide, the department announced Friday.

Sheriff Bill Gore opened a review in April into their previous investigation, which determined Zahau death was a suicide, after a jury ruled in a 2018 civil trial that Adam Shachnai was responsible for her death. 

“After conducting this review, the case team found no evidence that led us to believe that Rebecca Zahau died at the hands of another,” Gore said. 

Adam Shacknai is the brother of Zahau’s former boyfriend, millionaire Jonah Shacknai, and was the last person to see Rebecca alive. She was found dead by Adam Shacknai hanging from the balcony at Jonah Shaciknai’s home.

The Zahau family attorney, Keith Greer, said the department told him by phone about the ruling Friday morning. He said the finding is a “sad” reflection on the department.

“We gave them another opportunity to do the right thing,” Greer said. “Instead, they continue to support an improper and biased decision.”

SDSO Lt. Rich Williams with the SDSO Homicide Unit said he and the members of his team were chosen to review the case because did not have a hand in the initial investigation.

He said the review supported the initial findings. 

“There’s many theories out there but all the evidence points to one logical conclusion, and that’s a suicide,” he said.

Gore, who has long stood by the determination that Zahau’s death was a suicide, said he was at first surprised by the civil verdict and found the theory presented by the Zahau family attorney, Keith Greer, “not logical.”

In a live TV interview with KSWB a day after the verdict, Gore said: 

There’s just no physical evidence or eyewitness evidence to tie Adam Shacknai to this murder. There’s no DNA, there’s no fingerprints,” he said. “It’s interesting the attorney Mr. Greer managed to turn that into a theory that the crime scene had been wiped clean which is really difficult to do in this scientific age we live in.”

Greer said that was, “the most significant part.

“If you look at things associated with the crime, not even Rebecca’s DNA or prints are on them.”

For the review, Greer said he sent SDSO documents, including transcripts and other material from the 28-day civil trial.

Jurors in the wrongful death lawsuit voted 9 to 3 that Shacknai battered Zahau and that his actions caused her death. They determined Shacknai owed Zahau’s mother, Pari Zahau, approximately $5,167,000 in damages.

Adam Shacknai issued a statement via his legal representation shortly after Sheriff Gore made his decision public.

“I was in no way involved with Rebecca’s death, which was part of a tragic sequence of events, that also involved the loss of my six-year nephew Max. I will be pleased to assist the investigation in any way requested, as I have all along.”

When the review was announced, Gore said while no new evidence was presented in Adam Shacknai’s civil trial, new analysis of existing evidence was presented.

“In the spirit of transparency and open-mindedness, we have agreed to undertake a fresh review of the case, by investigators who have had no prior involvement with the case, to evaluate the new information,” Gore said at the time. 

Source: NBC San Diego

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