Rebecca Zahau's Body to Be Exhumed For New Autopsy; Family Doesn't Buy Cops' Findings That Death Was Suicide

The body of Rebecca Zahau, girlfriend of Jonah Shacknai, CEO of Scottsdale-based pharmaceutical company Medicis, will be exhumed so a private pathologist can conduct a second autopsy to try to determine whether her bizarre death at a California mansion was a suicide or a homicide.

Read all about Zahau's strange death here.

Police in San Diego ruled Zahau's strange hanging death a suicide last month, but the 32-year-old's family doesn't believe she could have killed herself and has asked Pennsylvania-based pathologist, Dr. Cyril Wecht, to conduct a second autopsy, despite the California Attorney General's decision not to review the case.

Zahau's body was found by Shacknai's brother in July, just days after the CEO's 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. Police suspect Zahau killed herself because she felt guilty over Max's death.

"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 last 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, especially because her body was found with her hands and feet bound behind her back, naked, and hanging from a balcony.

Wecht already has reviewed the case and found evidence that, he claims, shows Zahau couldn't have killed herself.

"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," Wecht found last month.

Brain hemorrhaging could have happened when Zahau was cut down from the balcony where she was found hanging -- her head may have been hit -- 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?"

According to the Associated Press, Zahau's body could be exhumed as early as today.

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James King
Contact: James King