It was seven years ago that a little boy and a young woman died, due to a tragic chain of events. Even though there was no evidence of foul play, the family of the woman believe otherwise. In order to find out the truth, a trial has started in their behalf. And it’s all because of one little detail that the investigators didn’t seem to notice at the time.
32-year-old Rebecca Zahau was an immigrant from Myanmar. She began dating Jonah Shacknai, the billionaire CEO of a pharmaceutical company, in 2008. Jonah was previously married two different times, and had a son from the second marriage. But Rebecca wasn’t really bothered by that, and soon their relationship was blooming. That was until three years later when tragedy found her.
Rebecca lived with Jonah in the Spreckels Mansion, which is a historic property in Coronado, California with 27 rooms. Jonah’s six-year-old son, Max, was visiting the mansion on July 11, 2011. Rebecca was the only one home at the time. Rebecca soon realized that watching a little boy in such a large home was very difficult. In fact, it turned fatal.
The details are indefinite, but it’s believed that little Max was playing around when he suddenly fell off a staircase on the second-story. Max was found next to a shattered chandelier, fatally wounded on the second floor. He was immediately brought to the hospital, where he fought to live for two days. When his injuries finally took his life, his parents Dina and Jonah were right by his side. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long before another tragedy would strike.
Rebecca was guilt ridden for not knowing where Max was at all times. While Jonah was at the hospital with his son, Rebecca stayed at the mansion. Adam, Jonah’s brother, came to Coronado in order to be with his family at such a devastating time. Adam was staying in a guest house on the property. Rebecca and Adam were the only two people home on the night of July 12.
Investigators learned from Adam that Rebecca was overcome by distress over what happened to Max. Adam told her that she could come to him any time she needed to talk. When it was time for bed, Adam returned to the guesthouse, and after taking an Ambien, he went to sleep. Unfortunately, Rebecca would be found dead the next morning.
Adam said that on the morning of July 13, he went to grab a cup of coffee from the main house. As he approached the house, he saw Rebecca hanging from the second-story balcony naked. He ran upstairs to cut her down, but unfortunately, it was too late. Rebecca was dead. He immediately called 911, and an investigation was opened in her death.
After hearing the testimony of Rebecca’s emotional state, and using evidence found at the scene, Rebecca’s death was ruled as a suicide. In just a matter of days, the Shacknai family suffered from two losses. They obviously wanted to move on from the tragedies, but there was another family that was looking for answers.
Pari, Rebecca’s mother, and her sister Mary, didn’t think Rebecca’s death was accidental. They believed that someone at the mansion “planned and prepared to batter and murder Rebecca.” Considering that Rebecca and Adam were the only two people at the mansion, they set their sights on Adam as the murderer.
The Zahaus family filed a $10 million lawsuit against Adam Shacknai for “wrongful death” two years after Rebecca died. At first, they also pointed fingers at Max’s mother and aunt, Dina Shacknai and Nina Romano. But they would later be taken off the lawsuit. The death of Rebecca was ruled as a suicide, so how could they prove that she was murdered?
The scene where Rebecca died was extremely strange. Police officers found black paint, brushes, two knives, and a very bizarre message painted on the door. But it was how Rebecca’s body was found that made her family believe she was murdered. Her feet were bound, her hands were tied behind her back, and she had a t-shirt wrapped around her face. Investigators were never able to explain those details.
Even though the lawsuit was filed in 2013, the trial didn’t begin until last month. On Monday, February 26, the jury selection process began. The first witnesses took the stand on March 5th. Keith Greer, the Zahaus’ attorney, brought in a handwriting expert, a fingerprint expert, and a psychologist in order to prove that Adam was involved with Rebecca’s death. But he faces a rocky road.
All of the people involved with the case, including law enforcement agencies, don’t believe Adam had anything to do with the death of Rebecca. Jonah Shacknai believes the lawsuit is absolutely ridiculous. “To be the subject of a lawsuit with a lawyer saying anything that comes into his head — he might as well be writing fiction stories,” said Jonah. But there is one person who believes there more to this case than what meets the eye.
Max’s mother, Dina Shacknai, doesn’t believe that Adam killed Rebecca, but she doesn’t believe that she killed herself, either. Even though Dina and Rebecca didn’t have the greatest relationship, Dina doesn’t blame Rebecca for Max’s death. While interviewing with Town & Country, Dina said that she believes someone who was never investigated by police is the person at fault. But the lawyer for Zahaus won’t take his eyes off of Adam.
Lindsey Philpott was called onto the stand on March 6th. Philpott is not only a retired charter boat captain, but he’s also a forensic knot analysis. During his testimony, Philpott said that Rebecca was bound using clove hitch and overhand knots, which are commonly used for nautical purposes. The Zahaus family believes this incriminates Adam because he is a tugboat captain. The defense argued differently.
The defense attorney, Dan Webb, was able to get Philpott to admit that the knots aren’t very complicated and are used for many reasons. He also pointed out that the knots on Rebecca’s wrists weren’t tied tightly. Actually, the officers were able to slip the rope off of Rebecca’s wrists. Both sides have a strong case, but the outcome is still being determined.