Shacknai Boy May Have Suffocated: Doctor

Search warrant reveals new details.

By Lauren Steussy and Tony Shin
|  Thursday, Sep 22, 2011  |  Updated 8:57 PM PDT
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Warrant Details Shacknai Suspicions

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Warrant Details Shacknai Suspicions

Newly obtained search warrants reveal that a doctor at first thought Max Shacknai may have been suffocated.
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Newly obtained search warrants reveal that a doctor at first thought that Max Shacknai, son of Jonah Shacknai may have been suffocated.

A county sheriff’s investigation later confirmed that Max died after falling down the stairs in the infamous Spreckles mansion where Rebecca Zahau was found dead days later.

However, Dr. Brad Peterson, a doctor at Rady’s Children’s hospital was quoted in a search warrant saying that Max might have suffocated before the fall. The visible injuries were not consistent with the cardiac arrest and brain swelling experienced by the boy, Peterson said.

The new details are emerging along with other information taken from search warrants, such as the items found in the house and the details of Jonah Shacknai’s alibi. Jonah stated that he was at Rady’s Childrens Hospital when his brother, Robert, called police to report the hanging. The search warrant used cell phone record and hospital surveillance tapes to confirm this.

Zahau’s family -- in addition to some members of the public – do not believe that Zahau killed herself, as the San Diego Sheriff’s investigation concluded. Well-known attorney Anne Bremner is looking at this new evidence in the hopes of re-opening the case.

"It's amazing to see how much information there is out there about this tragic death and clearly it's not a suicide,” Bremner said.

Meanwhile, Jonah has sent a request to the state attorney general asking that she review the case, seeking additional confirmation of the Sheriff’s evidence.

State Attorney Kamala Harris said Thursday she will not be reviewing the Ahase, according to a member of her staff.

NBC San Diego has received a copy of the letter Jonah recieved from Harris' office. It reads:

Dear Mr. Shacknai,

Thank you for your September 19 letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris, who sends her condolences for your profound loss. On behalf of both the Attorney General and her staff, we offer our sympathy for the tragedy that is the reason for your correspondence. Your letter requests an inquiry into the investigation that was conducted by the San Diego Sheriff's Office. The California Department of Justice would review a local investigation under very narrow circumstances. Some of the factors that are considered before committing the state's scarce resources include whether a clear conflict of interest exists, whether a local law enforcement agency has requested assistance, whether local investigative resources have been exhausted, and whether there are allegations of gross malfeasance by the investigative agency. Based on a review of your request, we must decline your invitation to review this investigation at this time.

Please accept our sincere condolences for your tragic loss, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely, Dane R. Gillette Chief Assistant Attorney General

 

Jonah Shacknai responded to the letter and sent us a copy. It reads:

“I would like to thank Attorney General Harris for her condolences and consideration of my request to evaluate this matter. I respect and accept the determination of the chief law enforcement authority in the State of California that the circumstances of this investigation do not warrant further review by the Attorney General at this time. Given the unusual facts of this tragedy, I understand that Rebecca’s family and others continue to have questions. If at any time there is new substantive evidence bearing on this case, it should be presented, not in tabloid form to fuel rumor and innuendo, but rather to appropriate law enforcement authorities who may determine whether further investigation is warranted. I continue to pray Max and Rebecca are now at peace, and that all of us devastated by their losses will be permitted to continue to grieve privately as we struggle to achieve some peace and closure.”

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