Neighbor heard Rebecca Zahau scream the night she died
CORONADO (KUSI) – In 2011 the San Diego Sheriff concluded Rebecca Zahau committed suicide. She was found bound, gagged, naked, and hanging from a balcony inside the Spreckels mansion. Her family did not agree with the sheriff’s investigation.
The family of Rebecca Zahau had her body exhumed in 2011. They hired Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist who worked on cases including J.F.K. and JonBenét Ramsey. Dr. Wecht performed another examination of the body and concluded her death was the result of homicide. This led to a wrongful death suit naming her boyfriend’s brother, Adam Shacknai, as the person responsible for her death.
During the trial, Dr. Wecht said the cause of death was trauma at the base of Rebecca’s neck, which he said is consistent with manual strangulation. He added he believed she was strangled, then hung to look like a suicide.
The jury also heard from a neighbor who, in a videotaped deposition, testified she heard Rebecca scream for help the night she died. Marsha Alison lived one door down from the Spreckels mansion and said that at 11:40 p.m. she heard a 20 or 30-something-year-old woman scream and say, “Help me help me!”
After more than six weeks, the jury ruled in favor of the family, awarding nearly 5.2 million dollars in damages. Shacknai appealed the verdict. However, before San Diego Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal could rule on the appeal, Rebecca’s family agreed to a settlement. The judge dismissed the case but said on the record that there was sufficient evidence to find Shacknai responsible for Rebecca’s death.
RELATED STORY: Reexamining the Rebecca Zahau case a decade after her death