San Diego

Sheriff Gore ‘Surprised' by Verdict in Spreckels Mansion Civil Case

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore was surprised by the civil verdict in the Coronado mansion mysterious death case and found the theory presented by the family’s attorney “not logical.”

Gore said his department has an open mind and would be willing to meet with the Zahau family and their attorney Keith Greer.

“I’m not opposed to reopening the case if there is new evidence that leads us in that direction,” Gore said to KSWB in a live TV interview Thursday.

On Wednesday, jurors determined Adam Shacknai was responsible for the death of Rebecca Zahau who was found hanging from the balcony at the Spreckels mansion in 2011.

Adam Shacknai is the brother of Zahau's former boyfriend, millionaire Jonah Shacknai, and is the last person to see Rebecca alive.

“There’s just no physical evidence or eyewitness evidence to tie Adam Shacknai to this murder. There’s no DNA, there’s no fingerprints,” the sheriff said. “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.

“Why would somebody - if you were going to kill somebody and make it look like a suicide - make it look like a very improbable suicide,” Gore said.

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. 

Since Zahau, 30, was found dead more than six years ago, the family has fought the determination by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department that her death was a suicide.

Sheriff's investigators' suggested 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.

"Hopefully people will know that she didn't commit suicide and she was murdered," Zahau-Loehner said outside the Hall of Justice after the verdict Wednesday. 

When asked what she would say to Gore, Zahau-Loehner said, "To be honest, to be truthful and to reopen the case."

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.

On Thursday, Adam Shacknai and his defense attorney, David Webb, spoke outside of the San Diego County courthouse downtown. See Shacknai's statement here.

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