NYT best-selling author Caitlin Rother to write new book on Rebecca Zahau murder

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Noted true-crime author Caitlin Rother announced Monday she has signed a deal to write a book about the lurid and mysterious death eight years ago of a pharmaceuticals magnate’s girlfriend in his historic Coronado mansion.

“As was just announced in Publishers Marketplace, I’m delighted to tell my readers that after months of protracted negotiations and interest by several publishers, I have signed a contract with Kensington/Citadel to write a book on the Rebecca Zahau death case,” Rother wrote on her website.

Rother, a former San Diego Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Daily News reporter who has written or co-authored 13 books and several Kindle ebooks, said the upcoming volume, “Justice for Rebecca,” is tentatively scheduled to be published in May 2021.

The nude body of Zahau, 32, was found July 13, 2011, hanging by the neck above a rear courtyard at the beachfront summer home owned by Medicis Pharmaceutical founder and CEO Jonah Shacknai. The dead woman was gagged, her ankles were bound and her wrists were tied behind her back.

Two days earlier, Shacknai’s 6-year-old son, Max, had been gravely injured in a fall over a second-story stairway banister inside the stately early 20th-century residence, known locally as the Spreckels Mansion. The boy died five days after the accident, which occurred while he was under Zahau’s care.

Following a seven-week investigation into Zahau’s death, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the Burma native had killed herself in an unusual but not unheard-of manner — by tying a rope around a bed, wrapping the other end of it around her neck, binding her own feet and hands, and throwing herself off a second-floor balcony.

Authorities suggested Zahau may have taken her own life out of remorse and sorrow over Max’s fall and his resulting grim prognosis.

Zahau’s mother, Pari Zahau, and older sister, Mary Zahau-Loehner, rejected the suicide finding and filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2013 against Shacknai’s brother, Adam, claiming that the defendant confronted and battered Zahau the day after his nephew fell. Adam Shacknai had traveled to San Diego from his home in Memphis to be with his brother following Max’s accident.

Last year, a civil jury found Adam Shacknai liable for the death of his brother’s girlfriend and ordered him to pay Pari Zahau more than $5 million in damages. Following an out-of-court settlement, the civil case was dismissed early this year.

In researching the case for her book, Rother has gleaned some things she “wasn’t expecting,” she said in her announcement.

“I’m already getting some great interviews with people you haven’t heard from before on TV or elsewhere, so I’m pretty excited,” she said. “I believe there is still much to be revealed in this case, and many questions to be answered.”

Rother invited anyone who might have tips or leads about the case to contact her at crother@flash.net.

Caitlin Rother, NY Times best-selling author of 13 books, was in studio to tell us more about the book.

For more info: www.caitlinrother.com

Categories: In Studio Guests, Local San Diego News