Adam Shacknai makes first public comments after verdict
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — One day after a San Diego jury decided Rebecca Zahau’s 2011 hanging death was a murder, Adam Shacknai, the man accused of killing her spoke to reporters.
The 54-year-old Memphis tugboat captain continued to insist that he is innocent.
With his attorney and his girlfriend at his side, Shacknai, the younger brother of Zahau’s former boyfriend and the owner of the Coronado mansion where Zahau was found hanged seven years ago, talked about Wednesday’s verdict in the wrongful death lawsuit.
He used the word, “posers” to characterize efforts to re-open a law enforcement investigation.
“I’m standing tall. I’m not worried about these posers. They got away with something once; they got lucky. They say ‘it’s better to be lucky than good.’ They got lucky one time. I don’t think they’re gonna get lucky again,” Shacknai told reporters. Defense attorney Dan Webb said Shacknai and his lawyers will seek to have the verdict overturned on appeal.
“There is overwhelming scientific and DNA evidence that exonerates Adam Shacknai and yet a verdict like this can occur.” Webb said he’s confident that the jury’s finding will be reversed, and “Adam Shacknai will be exonerated once and for all, and it will be behind him.”
The jury awarded the Zahau family more than $5 million in compensatory damages in the wrongful death suit.
The Zahau family’s attorney said it is doubtful that much of that money can be collected since Adam Shacknai has only modest means.
Attorney Keith Greer told reporters Thursday he will petition the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to re-open the case.
“If the Sheriff’s Department had at least left it (the case) open as undetermined and still be working the file, we wouldn’t be here right now,” Greer said.
Greer said he and the family decided to go through the ordeal of a civil lawsuit, including the expenditure of more than $200,000 for trial experts, “just to get it out to the public and get the Sheriff’s attention so they know we mean business and we’re not going away.”
Zahau, 32, was found dead two days after her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai’s 6-year-old son, Max, fell from a second-story landing at the Spreckels mansion. The boy died five days later.
Zahau’s mother, Pari Zahau, and older sister, Mary Zahau-Loehner, rejected the suicide finding and filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2013 against Adam Shacknai, claiming the defendant confronted and battered Zahau the day after his nephew fell.
Greer told the jury that Adam Shacknai delivered four blows to the head of Zahau, rendering her partially or fully unconscious. Greer also claimed the defendant sexually assaulted Zahau, tied her hands and feet, put a noose around her neck and threw her body off a second-story balcony.
Greer alleged that a phrase scrawled on a bedroom door with black paint, which read “She saved him, can he save her,” was written by the defendant. After less than a day of deliberations, jurors found that he touched and battered Zahau before her death with the intent to harm her.
On Wednesday, Greer called on the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to re-open its investigation into Zahau’s death. “We know that Rebecca did not commit suicide,” Greer said outside
court. “We knew right away.” Greer said the civil trial was a way to get the truth in front of the public.
“It’s not about money,” he said. “It’s never been about the money.” Zahau-Loehner told reporters she was in “shock” upon hearing the verdict.
“For seven years, we had to fight to prove she didn’t commit suicide,” Zahau-Loehner said Wednesday. “My sister was brutally murdered,” Zahau-Loehner said she is holding out hope that someday Adam Shacknai will be criminally charged in the case.
The defendant testified that he had nothing to do with Zahau’s death. He said he was staying in the guest house at his brother’s mansion the night of July 12, 2011, after traveling to San Diego from his home in Memphis to be with his brother after Max’s accident.
Adam Shacknai said he emerged from his room early the next morning and saw Zahau’s nude body hanging from the balcony. He said he called 911, cut Zahau down and tried to give her CPR, then called his brother to tell him his girlfriend was dead.
Jonah Shacknai — a pharmaceuticals tycoon from Arizona — testified during the six-week trial that it was “inconceivable” that his younger brother had anything to do with Zahau’s death
Wednesday, A San Diego jury awarded more than $5 million in damages to the family of a woman who authorities said committed suicide by hanging herself at a Coronado mansion in 2011, determining that the brother of the woman’s boyfriend was liable for her death.
Rebecca Zahau, 32, was found dead the day after her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai’s 6-year-old son, Max Schacknai, fell from a second-story landing at the mansion. The boy died five days later. Details on the verdict can be found here.
Wednesday afternoon, KUSI’s Sasha Foo was the first to speak with Zahau’s family attorney, Keith Greer.