The son of Medicis Pharmaceutical CEO Jonah Shacknai died from an assault, according to independent investigators hired by the boy's mother, Dina Shacknai.
Max Shacknai was 6 years old when he died at his father's Coronado, California mansion last year, just days after the body of 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau -- Jonah Shacknai's girlfriend -- was found naked, bound, and hanging from a balcony at the house.
Max was in Zahau's care when he died after falling down stairs in the home -- at least, that's what the medical examiner in San Diego County declared.
The experts hired by Dina Shacknai announced their findings in a press release, and they're not buying the "accident" explanation.
"... [T]he manner of death is not [accurate]," board-certified pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek says. "It would be more accurate to certify that manner as a homicide, where homicide is defined as death at the hands of another."
Dr. Robert T. Bove Jr., an "expert in injury biomechanics," presents the theory of what they believe happened:
"Dr. Melinek has proposed a scenario in which Maxfield Shacknai was assaulted, which resulted in the facial and forehead injuries sustained by Maxfield Shacknai. In her scenario, as a result of this assault, Maxfield Shacknai's back contacted the railing along the second floor hallway or along the stairs leading from the second floor to the landing which caused the soft tissue injuries to his back. As a result of the assault, Maxfield Shacknai moved or was moved over the railing causing him to fall to the first floor level and as a result of his contact with the first floor he sustained his skull fracture, subgaleal contusion and cervical cord injury. The kinematics associated with this scenario provide biomechanically accurate mechanisms for all of Maxfield Shacknai's injuries and are consistent with the physical evidence and geometry of the incident scene."
The documentation of the findings has been released, and Dina Shacknai's team already presented it to police and the medical examiner.
While Dina Shacknai has disputed the cause of her son's death, and Zahau's "suicide' has been challenged by Jonah Shacknai, the San Diego County Sheriff has insisted the initial findings were correct in both cases.
"Were these deaths the result of criminal conduct? Was Max's death a homicide? The answer is no," San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said in September. "It was a tragic accident. Was Rebecca's death a homicide? Again the answer is no. It was a suicide ... These deaths were not the result of any criminal acts."
Still, Dina Shacknai's hoping her investigators' findings will get the cops to reopen the case.
"Even though nothing will bring my only child Maxie back, I owe it to him, as his mother, to make sure the true facts of his death are known," she says in the press release. "It's important that his story be told, because this could happen to anyone's child."
You can find the cliff-notes version of the experts' reports below: