San Diego

Jury Faces 2 Questions in Spreckels Mansion Mystery

Jurors began deliberations Tuesday in the wrongful death lawsuit involving the death of Rebecca Zahau, a woman found hanging from the balcony at a Coronado mansion in 2011.

There are two questions facing the jurors in this civil trial.

Did Adam Shacknai touch Rebecca Zahau before her death with the intent to harm her?

Did that touching cause the death of Rebecca Zahau? 

If jurors determine Shacknai is responsible, they will then deliberate to determine damages for Zahau's mother, Pari Zahau. 

Zahau, 30, was found dead at the Spreckels mansion more than six years ago.

Zahau's family filed the $10 million civil suit claiming that her death was not a suicide as determined following an investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Attorney Keith Greer outlined several key pieces of evidence he says prove Shacknai, a 55-year-old tugboat captain, is responsible for Zahau's death.

Shacknai called 911 on July 13, 2011, and reported the death as a suicide, Greer said. He argued that no one would look at a woman in Zahau's state — nude, bound and hanging from a balcony — and say the woman killed herself.

Defense attorney Dan Webb told jurors that law enforcement officers had already investigated the case, adding his client had nothing to do with it.

"Adam Shacknai's fingerprints were found nowhere," he said.

Among the evidence presented by the plaintiffs was a handwriting expert who examined a cryptic message "She saved him can you save her?" and testified that based on his analysis, he believes with a degree of certainty that the writing on the wall was more than likely painted by Adam Shacknai.

A large chef's knife found in the guest bedroom of Spreckels Mansion has Zahau's fingerprints on both sides of the blade but none on the wooden handle, a forensic expert testified.

Zahau's boyfriend at the time of her death, Jonah Shacknai, testified the couple enjoyed boating together, which the defense credited for her apparent knowledge of tying nautical knots -- like the ones tied in the rope that suspended her hanged body. 

Zahau's family sued to have the case reopened in 2013. 

They criticized the sheriff's investigators' theory that Zahau herself tied a series of intricate knots on her hands behind her back, put the noose over her head and propelled herself off the mansion's balcony. 

Sheriff's investigators even released a video that they say shows how it can be done.

Contact Us