Second autopsy set for woman found hanged at Spreckels mansion
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A second autopsy is scheduled for Friday on the remains
of a woman found hanged at a historic Coronado estate last summer in what was
ruled a suicide.
At the behest of family members who dispute the ruling, the body of
Rebecca Zahau was exhumed this week from a cemetery in St. Joseph, Mo., and
transported to Pennsylvania for the independent postmortem examination, said
Dr. Cyril Wecht, the high-profile forensic pathologist who will lead the
examination. He said his findings should be available in about 10 days.
The 80-year-old pathologist, who gained fame through a series of highly
publicized forensic reviews of the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and
Anna Nicole Smith, has speculated that local authorities might have “rushed to
judgment” in concluding that the 32-year-old Zahau killed herself at the
Early on the morning of July 13, her nude body was found hanging from a
balcony railing at the 103-year-old mansion, which is owned by her
multimillionaire boyfriend, pharmaceutical tycoon Jonah Shacknai. Her hands
were tied behind her back, and her ankles had been bound as well, according to
After a seven-week investigation, the San Diego County Sheriff's
Department and Medical Examiner's Office agreed that all evidence in the case
pointed to suicide, though one with some novel aspects. Zahau's relatives have
refused to accept the ruling, saying she was a religious woman who viewed
suicide a sin.
Authorities have speculated that Zahau may have killed herself out of
grief and guilt over the accidental death of Shacknai's 6-year-old son, Max.
Two days before her death, Max was mortally injured in a fall over a stairway
railing in his father's 27-room ocean-front manor while under her care.
Zahua's family plans to discuss Wecht's findings with television talk
show host Phil McGraw next month.