Rebecca Zahau death: Opening statements begin in civil lawsuit trial

Posted at 9:31 AM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 22:12:49-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday in the civil trial for one of San Diego's most mysterious and infamous cases.

On July 13, 2011, the body of 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau was found tied up and hanging from a balcony at the Spreckels Mansion in Coronado.

Zahau was found dead two days after the young son of her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai suffered serious brain injuries after a fall at the home.

Six-year-old Max Shacknai died from his injuries, and authorities ruled his death accidental. The boy was under Zahau's care at the time of his fall.

A San Diego County Sheriff's Department investigation concluded that, based on evidence and autopsy reports, Zahau had taken her own life -- a ruling that Zahau's family has long questioned.

Zahau's family initially filed a $10 million wrongful death civil suit in 2013 against Adam Shacknai, Jonah Shacknai's ex-wife Dina and her sister Nina. Two women were removed from the suit in 2017 "with prejudice" after it was determined they had no direct link to the incident.


The attorney for the plaintiffs, Keith Greer, alleged Wednesday that Adam Shacknai delivered four blows to the head of Zahau, rendering her partially or fully unconscious.

Adam Shacknai, 54, then bound Zahau's hands and feet, put a noose around her neck, and threw her naked body off a second-story balcony, Greer alleged.

Greer said Zahau's mother and older sister should be awarded unspecified monetary damages for loss of companionship and emotional support.

Dan Webb, the lead attorney for Adam Shacknai, told the jury that the plaintiffs would not be able to prove their case.

Webb said only Rebecca Zahau's fingerprints were on the ropes that bound her.

"Adam never harmed anybody in his life," Webb said.

Webb said Adam Shacknai was staying in a guest house at the mansion and discovered Zahau's body hanging from the balcony about 6:45 a.m.

Adam Shacknai called 911 and cut the victim down, Webb told the jury.

The attorney said four law enforcement agencies investigated the death for two months and determined that Zahau committed suicide.