San Diego

Sheriff Gore Commits to Reinvestigation of Rebecca Zahau's Death at Spreckles Mansion

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department will reinvestigate the 2011 death of Rebecca Zahau at Spreckels Mansion, Sheriff Bill Gore said in a statement Monday.

Zahau's death was determined a suicide by the Sheriff's Department and San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office (ME), but earlier this month a jury determined that Adam Shacknai, the defendant in a wrongful death suit brought on by Zahau's family, was responsible for her death.

Adam Shacknai is the brother of Zahau's former boyfriend, millionaire Jonah Shacknai, and was the last person to see Rebecca alive. She was found dead by Adam Shacknai hanging from the balcony at Jonah's home.

In his statement Monday, Sheriff Gore said the decision came after meeting with Zahau family attorney Keith Greer.

"While no new evidence was presented, new analysis of existing evidence was presented in the recently concluded civil trial. In the spirit of transparency and open-mindedness, we have agreed to undertake a fresh review of the case, by investigators who have had no prior involvement with the case, to evaluate the new information," the statement read in part.

He said in the statement that the investigation would take at least 90 days, and said when it is done the SDSO will meet once again with Zahau family attorneys.

Gore was at first surprised by the civil verdict in the mysterious death case and found the theory presented by the Greer “not logical."

Jurors in the wrongful death lawsuit voted 9 to 3 that Shacknai battered Zahau and that his actions caused her death. They determined Shacknai owed Zahau's mother, Pari Zahau, approximately $5,167,000 in damages. 

“There’s just no physical evidence or eyewitness evidence to tie Adam Shacknai to this murder. There’s no DNA, there’s no fingerprints,” Sheriff Gore said to KSWB in a live TV interview on April 5. “It’s interesting the attorney Mr. Greer managed to turn that into a theory that the crime scene had been wiped clean which is really difficult to do in this scientific age we live in.”

The sheriff also said the theory that someone would stage the Zahau death in the manner she was killed is not logical.

Hours after the verdict was read, San Diego County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Lt. Karen Stubkjaer sent a statement to NBC 7.

"We completed a comprehensive and professional investigation and stand behind it. We have no further comment about this civil lawsuit," she said. 

They later released a second statement that said: 

"The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is aware of the recent verdict in the Rebecca Zahau wrongful death civil suit. We have cooperated with all parties on the presentation of evidence and testimony during the trial. Our thoughts are with the Zahau Family as they relive the tragic death of their daughter and sister, Rebecca.

In regards to the criminal investigation, the Sheriff's Department stands by the findings of the Medical Examiner's Office and our investigators. These findings were supported by forensic evidence and medical examinations. We are always open to reviewing any evidence that could impact our conclusions. Additionally, we are also willing to meet with the Zahau Family to look at any new evidence that came out of the civil trial."

The department has collected information regarding its efforts on a special website labeled "Coronado Death Investigation." 

KSBW also asked Gore if he changed his mind about reopening the Zahau case because his political challenger had suggested he would reopen the case, Gore said he was saddened to see the Zahau family and their attorney bring politics into the investigation.

Greer told NBC 7 on Monday that Zahau's "cautiously optimistic" family is happy with the direction Sheriff Gore is headed and is hoping the review leads to a criminal indictment.

Among the evidence under review is one of the things Greer said he focused on during the trial -- the lack of DNA evidence at the scene where Zahau's body was found.

"If you look at things associated with the crime, not even Rebecca's DNA or prints are on them," Greer said. "I think that's the most significant aspect."

Greer said he is in the process of sending documents to the SDSO, including transcripts and other material from the 28-day civil trial that garnered national attention.

Adam Shacknai issued a statement via his legal representation shortly after Sheriff Gore made his decision public.

"I was in no way involved with Rebecca's death, which was part of a tragic sequence of events, that also involved the loss of my six-year nephew Max. I will be pleased to assist the investigation in any way requested, as I have all along."

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