Death Ruled Suicide in California Mansion Mystery

CORONADO, Ca. – Police have ruled one of the mysterious deaths at a California millionaire’s mansion to be a suicide.

Investigators said Rebecca Zahau, the girlfriend of pharmaceutical tycoon Jonah Shacknai, hanged herself in the millionaire’s mansion in July 2011.

On Friday, police revealed their conclusion in Zahau’s death, along with an announcement that the death of Shacknai’s six-year-old son was accidental. Days before Zahau, 32, died, police say Shacknai’s son, Max, tripped and fell over a balcony in the same mansion. They believe he tried to grab onto a chandelier and stop his fall, but he landed at the bottom of the home’s grand staircase.

On July 13, police discovered Zahau’s naked body hanging by a self-made rope noose in the mansion’s courtyard. Investigators went on to say Zahau painted a message in black paint, and they discovered paint on her hands and on the rope. Police did not reveal what that message said. They believe she tied her hands and feet behind her back, then put her head through the noose and jumped over a balcony in the mansion. Investigators said it is possible for a person to tie their hands behind their back by using slip knots.

Officials discovered Zahau’s body hours after she accessed her voicemail, which contained a message about the grave condition of Max Shacknai. The young boy had his accident just days before Zahau’s death. Zahau and her thirteen-year-old sister were the only people in the house when the boy fell. He died days later.

“We received information from witnesses that Rebecca was distraught over Max’s injury,” said San Diego homicide Sgt. Dave Nemeth.

However, Zahau’s family does not believe she would take her own life. Her mother spoke out against the police’s conclusion of a suicide.

"We her family and friends do not believe it's a suicide. There are still unanswered questions," said Mary Zahau-Loehner. “It is very suspicious, and we would like the police to look further into her case.”

Shacknai, 54, the CEO of Medics Pharmaceutical Corporation, was never named a suspect.


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