Jonah Shacknai Asks For Review of Suicide Findings in Death of Girlfriend Rebecca Zahau

Jonah Shacknai, the CEO of Scottsdale-based Medicis pharmaceutical company, has asked the California attorney general to review the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's finding that the death of his girlfriend was a suicide.

Rebecca Zahau's body was found naked, bound, and hanging from a balcony in the courtyard at Shacknai's Coronado mansion in July. Earlier this month, the SDCSD ruled the death was a suicide, despite the bizarre factors of her death -- for example, when she was found, Zahau was naked and had her hands and feet bound behind her back, and there was a cryptic message written on the door to the room where her body was found (more on that below).

In a letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Shacknai asks to have the case reviewed to "further enhance the public's confidence in the integrity of the law-enforcement process and finally bring closure to these terrible tragedies."

"It is my hope that your review of Rebecca's death will serve the interests of justice by providing confidence, comfort and resolution not just to the families directly impacted by these tragedies, but also to the public at large, which has taken an interest in these highly unusual circumstances," Shacknai writes in the letter.

Shacknai goes on to say he "does not doubt" the San Diego County Sheriff's Department conclusion that the death was a suicide.

Zahau was found dead by Shacknai's brother just days after his son, Max, was rushed to a hospital in critical condition after falling down a flight of stairs in the mansion. Zahau was caring for the boy at the time of the fall.

Max Shacknai later died from his injuries.

"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 at a press conference earlier this month. "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."

Despite the ruling, Zahau's apparent suicide remains controversial for a lot of reasons.

Aside from being found bound behind her back, naked, and hanging from a balcony, Zahau's autopsy revealed several unexplained head injuries a renowned forensic pathologist says don't necessarily support the theory that Zahau hung herself.

Pathologist Cyril Wecht reviewed Zahua's entire autopsy report. He finds the following:

"She has subgaleal hemorrhages; those are hemorrhages on the undersurface of the scalp. I see no reason why she should have those. You get those when your head strikes something or is struck by something."

Brain hemorrhaging could have happened when Zahau was cut down from the balcony -- she may have hit her head -- but it wouldn't have happened in four different places in the brain, Wecht concludes.

"Even if (her) scalp hit bushes, that kind of impact would not produce subgaleal hemorrhage," Wecht continues. "We're talking about contusions on the top of the head. So, even as the body is falling down - let's say there are branches - how do you get bruises on the top of the head as the body is falling vertically downward?"

Another tidbit the San Diego County Sheriff's Department left out during its press conference announcing its findings that Zahau's death was a suicide is a message left in black paint on a door near the room where Zahau was found hanging.

The SDCSD mentioned a message during the press conference, but wouldn't tell reporters what it said.

That message, the autopsy reveals, was the following: "She saved him can you save her?"

The message could possibly be referencing Max Shacknai. However, it seems if Zahau were the person who'd written the message, it would say "can you save me," not "can you save her." 

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James King
Contact: James King