Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The San Diego Millionaire Mansion Mystery Gets More Intense


Last year, 6 year old Max Shacknai fell off some stairs at his millionaire father's house and died. Two days later, the woman who was watching him, the girlfriend of his father, killed herself by hanging inside the house. At the time, police were convinced Rebecca Zahau was distraught over the fact that she was babysitting at the time at the time of Max's death. Well, now Max's mother is convinced her son was murdered. She had independent investigators look into the death and they determined that the boy had head and face injuries that occurred before he fell over the railing and died. Likely that he may have been pushed. I am of two minds about this. I think that independent investigators are paid by you and will report what you want them to report. I also think that killing yourself because you were babysitting when someone died might have been too extreme. I always thought Rebecca was killed in retaliation for killing the son. Her family agrees with me, and will probably hate the fact that she is now being accused of murder.

50 comments:

rhinovodka said...

such a sad story. He was a cute little boy.

nancer said...

this story has always smelled to me. especially the circumstances of her 'suicide.' i don't think the truth is even close to being found, and may never be.

BigMama said...

I can not blame the mother for wanting to do anything she can to get at the truth. I can not imagine where my mind would go in the event of such a tragedy. But I agree with Nancer, something doesn't seem right with the whole thing.

Lola said...

Her death was totally brushed under the rug. I think she was murdered. How does someone tie her hands behind her back and her feet in intricate "sailor's" knots, gag herself, cause injuries to herself resulting in several hemmatomas, get blood all over her legs, wrap a shirt and a rope around her neck and tie the rope to a bedpost with knots that take 2 people to tie properly and then throw herself off of the second floor balcony (while remembering to close the door behind her)? Add to that she decided to get naked before doing any of that to herself. Riiiight.

I don't know what happened to the little boy but it seemed at the time it was a tragic accident where he fell to his death while momentarily unsupervised (I think she said at the time she was in the bathroom). In any case, I don't know what the mother hopes to accomplish at this point, the person she is accusing is already dead. Maybe this will bring out the truth of Rebecca's death.

Tragic all around.

Amber said...

This is OT because I can't deal with anymore suicide this week...but doesn't that little boy look like the young version of the boy who played Josh (young Tom Hanks) in Big?

RenoBlondee said...

Oh wow, that is so sad.
Lola, no kidding, how does anyone tie their own hands behind their back? That's nuts to think someone didn't do that!

Tali said...

I have no clue why it was ruled a suicide, based on what is publicly known (see Lola's comment).
I work in homicide myself (not in the U.S.) and could not imagine someone being found under those circumstances and it not at least being ruled a suspicius death.
However, in most cases what is discussed in the media is often a whole different story than the actual facts. So maybe there's more to it. But still....strange....

Ms Cool said...

I remember this. I don't know about the kid's death but I felt for sure at the time that the girlfriend was murdered for the reasons Lola said.

Tali said...

*suspicious, sorry

Brenda L said...

This story slipped under my radar. That is so sad. I sure would like to know more about the millionaire father.

libby said...

Isn't it also possible she was killed because HE abused the kid before the kid's 'accident'? Anyone who would kill a girlfriend that way, doesn't seem above smacking his own kid around.

libby said...

This murder reminds me of something Drew Peterson would really admire---murder 'mistaken' by the cops as a suicide. Drew P's probably thinking, "good job."

Lola said...

Tali, I think I remember reading that the gag, blood and hemmatomas were disclosed after the woman's family's lawyer got her hands on the original police and coroner's report, but I could be misremembering the sequence of events. I remember several experts in suicide coming forward at the time and saying that they had never before seen one like Rebecca's.

But you are right, there may be things the public and family don't know.

figgy said...

I too am convinced she was murdered. Where is the boy's father now??

I don't mean to sound cold, but I love murder mystery novels, and boy, this would be an excellent plot.

Frufra said...

@Tali - I concur. My experience is that media reports re criminal cases are most often only partially true, at best. Many times, all the facts are not released, pending prosecution. Agencies also aren't above twisting the facts to make themselves look good.

You always have to remember that many law enforcement positions are elected, and that higher ups are many times looking to future political aspirations or appointments, etc.

surfer said...

Lola expressed my thoughts exactly. I can understand the mother's grief and wanting to find some logic to his death, but I just think it was a very tragic accident.

And I'm no Inspector Clouseau, but I don't believe for a moment that the girlfriend took her own life. Never mind the implausibility of it all, but what woman would hang herself NUDE, in the inner courtyard of the home? I don't care how hot your body is, no woman wants to be found nude, where so many people (police, medics, etc.) will be looking you over.

detown359 said...

I always thought the dad killed the boy, the gf knew and was distraught so dad killed her too as a way to silence her. Never understand how a ME can rule a death suicide when hands are tied behind one's back.

Tali said...

@ Lola, I agree with you, it's very strange and it sure seems like they are sweeping this under the rug as you said.
I wonder if the police have made the effort of investigating all the other options in order to rule everything (and everyone) else out. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they haven't ;-) but I don't know. I would love to read those case files though!

mikey said...

I would have to go back and re-read the original articles but I thought the father was not at that house during the time frame his son was killed. His brother was staying at the house and the girlfriend was staying at the house and watching the boy.

It's one thing when something is off about a story but everything is off about this situation.

My heart breaks for Max's mother.

auntliddy said...

Is it wrong that I find solving this murder/suicide/accident fascinating?

jennifer hansen said...

everything in your first paragraph, seriously! rebecca was murdered. and i too thought the boy's death was an accident b/c he wasn't being watched so someone whether it was the boy's father or mother or both had rebecca killed b/c she wasn't watching him

bobbi_1025 said...

I agree with @surfer. In most suicide cases, women usually arrange themselves to be presentable upon discovery. That's why most females o.d. on pills or slit their wrists, or hang themselves. But that is most cases, there are always exceptions.

libby said...

surfer & bobbi---SO true. When the news said she was hanging outdoors, nude, I was like 'no way, not a suicide.'

lolaluvs2snack said...

We need Patrick Jane (the mentalist)on the case. This sounds fishy as hell.

Lola said...

Tali, both the father and Rebecca's family asked for it to be reexamined to no avail. At the time, the brother's lie detector exam was "inconclusive" and it was recommended by the original examiner that it be readministered, it never was. The brother was also the one who found her and "cut her down" prior to calling the police. He was the only one who ever saw her actually hanging...he was also worked on a tugboat (make of that what you will).

Mikey, the father was confirmed not at the house at the time of both deaths. When Rebecca "committed suicide" he was at the hospital with his son who was still alive but brain dead at the time.

I never thought about the nude angle, but you all are right, no woman would want to be found nude on purpose.

Auntliddy, I think it's sadly facinating too. At the time, I couldn't stop reading about it. I remember a lot of people at the time being cynical about the final ruling because of the father's money.

SusanB said...

My husband is an independant licensed private investigator. If you hire him to investigate an incident, he will report the truth to you (as he finds it) whether it's what you want to hear or not. Of course, if you don't like it, you can sweep the report under the rug and only publish the reports you like. Don't knock all independant investigators!

Personally, I think the woman was murdered. Perhaps as revenge for not watching the child. Remember the Gotti incident? A neighbor ran over one of his kids who was in the street. The neighbor was not charged. The neighbor later disappeared. It's long been rumored Gotti "took care" of him.

dia papaya said...

No auntliddy - that's why shows like CSI and Criminal Minds are so popular. I was a psych / criminology major in undergrad and a one point dreamed of joining the FBI. I love this stuff too!

dia papaya said...

CDaN detectives on the case!

Ummm, someone got paid off big time. I agree with all that they were both murdered. I like Libby's take on it that the dad was abusive to the boy and then killed her to cover it all up.

Hate that rich people get to live by different rules than the rest of us.

kelgela said...

I don't think she killed the little boy. If she was babysitting, it could be that the kid slipped away for a little bit while she was cooking, cleaning, bathroom, etc and fell. Or it could be the brother... Who would inherit the dad's money if there was no child to give it to if he died?

kimmypie1 said...

I live in San Diego so I have read tons of coverage on this. The night that Rebecca was killed (I don't think it was suicide) Max's mother Dina's TWIN sister was seen by a neighbor at the mansion.

She admitted to it and said she just went over there to talk to Rebecca about Max's accident but Rebecca never answered the door.

Also, Dina and Jonah (Max's mom and Dad) had an abusive relationship which was well documented.

Also....Rebecca was rumored to have been the other woman in Dina and Jonah's marriage.

So many things wrong with this situation that I don't believe ANY of what the police claim happened.

Agent**It said...

He is the CEO of a large pharmaceutical corporation. His ex wife who requested this investigation, states they had a stormy and violent marriage. They repeatedly accused each other of physical and verbal abuse and three times the fights became so violent they called police.

libby said...

kimmy & Agent---That's why I wouldn't doubt he was hitting the kid, too.
Killing the babysitting GF gets the cops off the scent of child abuse. 'My dead GF used to hit my kid, not me. She was torn up with guilt and killed herself.'
Done and done.

Dishtlk said...

whoa... I swear I watched a Dateline on this but I don't remember them mentioning the kid part, at ALL!? I don't have the best memory but tragic kid accidents tend to stick out for me... I'm pretty sure Dateline even had Rebecca's family on it claiming it was murder... time to google.

Dishtlk said...

a quick google tells me they were on Dr Phil... its a background show to me but I swear I watched this one closer than most and have no memory of the little boy's death being mentioned. That adds a WAAAAAY different dynamic to the whole situation

Tru Leigh said...

The rich are not like you and me.


They get away with murder.

All about Eve said...

It sounds to me like Rebecca was murdered, it's strange that she would want to be found naked. As for the little boy, I am convinced it was a tragic accident, as a mother of two I know very well that as soon as you turn your back for one second they are doing something they shouldn't! That's just the way kids are.

Sarah said...

The father has a mean face. If you see his photo it's easy to imagine this man is capable of extreme cruelty.

yodelay said...

As far as I remember, the father accepted the boy's death as an accident, but tried to get the police to further investigate the girlfriend's death. He didn't buy it as a suicide either. I think this is the rare case where the guy didn't do it. This case is just strange all around. Wasn't there some weirdo message on the door or wall when the gf was found?

Queen Tidbit said...

Ah, if only Dominick Dunne were still alive. This story is right (write) up his alley. He kind of passed his mantle to Mark Fuhrman, so maybe Mark will investigate and solve another murder mystery involving the rich and famous, just as he did with the Martha Moxley murder.

kimmypie1 said...

yodelay, he requested further investigation on his GFs death to "put an end to the speculation" which was just for his benefit and not to find out the truth.

the saying, written in paint on the wall was "she saved him, can you save her"? Some think this means that Rebecca had previous said that she tried to save Max (and didn't succeed) so whoever wrote it wanted someone to do the same kind of "saving" to Rebecca.

OMAMA is BROKO said...

Rebecca was definitely murdered, but was this kid's death a homicide? That I am just not ready to agree with.

Unknown said...

That's funny I think the murdered boys aunt and uncle murdered the girlfriend who happened to be in the house when a 7 year old feel down the stairs not paying attention as kids can do sometimes. I think the police in SD are so incompetent they didn't see a lot of things that indicated the murdered woman had no intention of suicide even the morning she dies she was making long range plans with family and friends.

This is a sad case because two killers are out there, getting away with murdering a person who had nothing to do with the death of that little boy. One person didn't disrobe her, tie her up and toss her off a balcony to be featured, stunning display for all to see.

gossipoholic said...

Don't blame the San Diego PD, Coronado has its own police department who investigated these incidents at the Spreckels Mansion. Most of the Coronado & San Diego police departments are made up of retired military police, each department requies a college degree to join their departments. They are not incompetent. But people do make mistakes in investigations. And the possibility of a cover-up exists. I'm in the process of doing research for a book on these incidents.

OMAMA is BROKO said...

@Unknown...I concur about COS for Rebecca....however, I always felt money talked and murderers walked as far as the coroner's report and whatever city police chief it was.

//and I am sorry, there are few ppl in this world who are unable to be bought. It may be a sad reality, but it's also, sadly a truth.

Agent**It said...

I would investigate the financial records of all the police involved.

Me said...

no way did that boy "fall" over the top of the stairs. and how do you hang yurself w/ your hands behind your back? most people here (san diego) think both of them were murdered.

oh, and another child, cousin or something. had been visiting and got injuried, pretty badly, the day before the boy died. she was sent home (lived far away). wtf was going on in that house?

1Jazzimom said...

How very sad. Sounds like GF was killed.

Harry Brown said...

ohh!! This is so sad..Why such things happen and that too to a such a cute little boy.How can anyone be so cruel and push him to his death.

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