Jury finds Adam Shacknai responsible in Rebecca Zahau wrongful death case

Posted at 10:31 AM, Apr 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-04 22:43:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A day after deliberations began in the wrongful death civil case over a mysterious Coronado mansion death, a jury has reached a verdict.

A jury Wednesday found Adam Shacknai responsible in the death of Rebecca Zahau at the Spreckles Mansion in 2011. Zahau's family will be awarded $5 million in punitive damages.

Jurors were asked two main questions: Did Adam Shacknai touch Rebecca Zahau (before she died) with the intent to harm her? Did that touching cause her death? Jurors determined "yes" in both instances.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday that they are standing by their findings that Zahau committed suicide. The department released the following statement Wednesday afternoon: 

"The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is aware of the recent verdict in the Rebecca Zahau wrongful death civil suit. We have cooperated with all parties on the presentation of evidence and testimony during the trial. Our thoughts are with the Zahau Family as they relive the tragic death of their daughter and sister,Rebecca. In regards to the criminal investigation, the Sheriff's Department stands by the findings of the Medical Examiner's Office and our investigators. These findings were supported by forensic evidence and medical examinations. We are always open to reviewing any evidence that could impact our conclusions. Additionally, we are also willing to meet with the Zahau Family to look at any new evidence that came out of the civil trial"


Though Zahau's death was ruled a suicide, her family has insisted she was a murder victim and has accused Adam Shacknai of being responsible.

"I hope that the Sheriff's Department is paying some attention," Zahau's family attorney, Keith Greer, said after the verdict was read. "This has always been about getting the Sheriff's Department to reopen this up.

"Adam Shacknai doesn't have money, This isn't about money ... [SDSO] should use their resources to do the job correctly," Greer added.


Zahau's sister, Mary, said they're happy to get the jury's backing against San Diego Sheriff's findings.

"We can’t get her back but at least we can let everyone know she didn’t commit suicide and didn’t deserve to be treated the way she was by the Sheriff," Mary Zahau said fighting tears outside a San Diego courthouse.

"For seven years we had to fight to make it known she didn’t commit suicide even though we knew she didn’t ... It has been a struggle."


Adam Shacknai has denied the accusations and his brother and Zahau's boyfriend, Jonah, testified it was "inconceivable" that he had anything to do with Zahau's death.

Zahau’s body was found on the ground at the Spreckels Mansion in Coronado on July 13, 2011, by investigators. Her hands and feet were bound and a rope around her neck was the same rope discovered hanging from a balcony above, according to investigators.

Adam Shacknai had been staying in the guest house of the mansion and called 911 to report Zahau's death.


However, Greer argued that Adam Shacknai was far more involved in the death. Greer argued Adam Shacknai delivered four blows to Zahau's head, rendering her at least partially unconscious and then sexually assaulted her.

After, Greer said Zahau's hands and feet were bound and a noose was put around her neck before Adam Shacknai threw her body over a mansion balcony.

Zahau's death followed days after the death of Max Shacknai, the 6-year-old son of her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai. The young boy died from injuries sustained from a fall at the mansion while under Zahau's care. Authorities ruled Max's death accidental.