Rebecca Zahau wrongful death case entering its final phase

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Closing arguments began Monday in the wrongful death civil suit filed by the family of 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau.

She was found hanged, naked, bound and gagged on July 13, 2011 at the historic Speckles Mansion in Coronado, owned by her boyfriend, pharmaceutical CEO Jonah Shacknai.

Although her death was ruled a suicide by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the County Medical Examiner, the Zahau family has disputed that finding and in the wrongful death suit, alleges that 54-year-old Adam Shacknai, the brother of Zahau’s boyfriend, murdered her after a sexual assault and then staged the killing to look like a suicide.

In the civil trial which began on Feb. 26, attorneys for the plaintiffs and for the defense have called a wide array of experts to testify.

Both sides have used forensic pathologists to discuss the injuries suffered by Zahau. The plaintiffs’ case also involved testimony from a knot and ligature expert, a DNA expert, an expert on fingerprints and an authority on kinesiology.

The defense has argued that there is no DNA or fingerprint evidence to implicate Adam Shacknai.

In a case that has involved detailed evidence on DNA, fingerprints, handwriting, knots and autopsy reports, what may be the trial’s most dramatic demonstration was a life-size mannequin meant to simulate the way the body of Zahau was found hanging from a balcony of her boyfriend’s mansion in Coronado.

The plaintiffs contend Zahau did not take her own life, but was sexually assaulted and murdered by her boyfriend’s brother, Adam Shacknai.

As jurors looked at the mannequin, attorney Keith Greer played the recording of the 911 call in which the defendant Adam Shacknai is heard talking to the 911 operator, shortly after he said he has found Zahau hanging.

When the dispatcher asks Shacknai if Zahau is still alive, Shacknai responds, “I don’t know.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney told the jury, “He doesn’t come there and shake her and check her- see ‘are you alive?” He doesn’t even think about whether she’s alive or dead, until somebody says something to him. He knows she’s dead.”

Defense attorney Dan Webb told the jury there is not a single witness or any scientific evidence that points to Adam Shacknai’s involvement. Webb said the plaintiffs have fashioned a theory based only on speculation and tried to pass it off as evidence.

“Theories are not evidence,” Webb said.

Closing arguments continue Tuesday. Jury deliberations could begin Tuesday afternoon.

Related Stories on the case can be found here.

 

Categories: Local San Diego News