A judge in southern California will review a death investigation previously ruled a suicide after a civil jury found the victim’s brother-in-law was responsible for her death.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Adam Shacknai was ordered to pay over $5 million in damages to Rebecca Zahau’s family following a civil trial that found him legally responsible for her death, which San Diego police had ruled a suicide.
Zahau, 32, was found hanged over a balcony at her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai’s Coronado mansion in July 2011, her hands bound behind her back. Days earlier, Jonah’s son Max Shacknai was severely injured in a fall at the home while he was in Rebecca’s care; and he would later die of his injuries. Adam Shacknai, Jonah’s brother, had come to support the family while Max was hospitalized, and was the only other person at the mansion the night of Rebecca’s death.
Following an investigation, San Diego authorities ruled Zahau’s death a suicide, having concluded through a re-creation of the scene that it was possible for someone to hang themselves the way Zahau did. Authorities also noted that only Rebecca’s fingerprints were found on the balcony where she was found hanged.
According to the San Diego Tribune, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department said in statement after the civil verdict was delivered that the department stood by the Medical Examiner’s findings, but that it was open to reviewing any new evidence.
And on Monday, San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore released a statement obtained by the San Diego Tribune announcing that the department would review the case, saying that the decision was based not on new evidence but on new analysis of previous evidence.
In the spirit of transparency and open-mindedness, we have agreed to undertake a fresh review of the case, by investigators who have had no prior involvement with the case, to evaluate the new information,” the statement read. As the newspaper noted, the statement does not say that the case is being re-opened.
The sheriff reportedly made the decision in cooperation with C. Keith Greer, the attorney for Zahau’s family.
“We’re very excited,” Greer told the newspaper.
“I had a great discussion with Sheriff Gore. He was very professional, very accommodating. He seemed genuinely interested in doing the right thing.”
Adam Shacknai, who has maintained his innocence from the start, issued a statement on Monday night saying he would happily cooperate.
“I will be pleased to assist the investigation in any way requested, as I have all along,” he reportedly said in a statement, adding, “I was in no way involved with Rebecca’s death.”
The case review is expected to take 90 days.
[Feature image: Rebecca Zahau/Police handout]