Rebecca Zahau was strangled before she was found hanged in California mansion, lawyer claims

The 32-year-old woman was found dead two days after her boyfriend’s son suffered a fatal accident while in her care

The attorney representing Rebecca Zahau in her wrongful death trial argued in court on Wednesday that she was the victim of foul play, and her boyfriend’s brother Adam Shacknai wiped the scene of fingerprints and DNA evidence that could connect him to the crime.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Zahau, 32, was found bound and hanging from a balcony in the San Diego mansion of her boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, in July 2011. Two days before Rebecca died, she had been caring for Jonah’s six-year-old son, Max, when he badly injured himself in a fall that would eventually take his life. Jonah and the boy’s mother were with him at the hospital the night Rebecca died, but Jonah’s brother Adam was staying in the guest house at the Coronado mansion. He called 911 when he found Rebecca hanging in the early hours of the morning, and reportedly tried to revive her.

Investigators concluded that Rebecca Zahau died of suicide, but her family has insisted for years that there is no way she took her own life, and certainly not in the unusual manner that her body was found. The family filed a wrongful death suit against Adam Shacknai, and the civil trial began this week in a San Diego court.

On Wednesday, as reported by NBC San Diego, Attorney Keith Greer argued before a judge that Adam Shacknai is responsible for Rebecca’s death, arguing that the way her body was found — naked, with her hands and feet bound, and gagged with a T-shirt — did not point to a suicide. The attorney said he had an expert who testify that a cryptic note left on a bedroom door was written by someone Adam’s height, not Rebecca’s.

The note, written in paint, read: “She saved him can you save her.”

The only DNA found on the paint bottle was on the cap, and it belonged to Rebecca. But Greer has accused Shacknai of wiping fingerprints from the tube of paint, and also from doorknobs and other items at the scene.

“Something made those disappear,” Greer reportedly said. “They are not there.”

The attorney also claimed that if Rebecca had indeed hanged herself from the balcony, which is 9 feet above the ground, she would have been partially of fully decapitated, and that a bed in the guest bedroom where the other end of the rope was tied would have moved much more than the 7 inches it was found to have moved away from the wall.

“There’s a huge amount of energy here that’s not accounted for,” Greer said, adding that it would have been very difficult for Rebecca to hang herself from the balcony.

“With her hands tied behind her back and her legs tied, her center of gravity was so low that it would be virtually impossible for her to get herself over that railing on her own,” the lawyer said.

But Adam Shacknai’s attorney insists he is innocent, and said in court that he would bring witnesses who could testify that Rebecca’s state of mind in the weeks leading up to her death pointed to a suicide risk. Adam Shacknai is expected to testify on his behalf, along with law enforcement officials.

The civil trial will continue on Thursday.


[Feature image: Rebecca Zahau/Handout]