Suicide expert testifies Rebecca Zahau faced ‘elevated risk’ of suicide

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Journal entries written by Rebecca Zahau were read aloud Tuesday in a San Diego courtroom.

It was part of the testimony in the Coronado mansion death case.

Dr. Alan Berman, a nationally renowned suicide expert, testified that Zahau’s history of child sexual abuse along with past physical and emotional abuse put her at higher risk of suicide.

Zahau’s family contends Rebecca did not take her own life, but died at the hands of her boyfriend’s brother, Adam Shacknai. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the killing by Shacknai was staged to look like a suicide.

However, defense attorneys tried to refute that claim, reading excerpts from a journal that Zahau kept on her phone.

In entries made several months before her death, she wrote that she was dissatisfied with her relationship with her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai, but also wrote, “It’s my own fault.”

Zahau died two days after Jonah Shacknai’s 6-year-old son Max fell from a staircase while under Rebecca’s care.

The suicide expert told the court that the accident could have been a factor that put Zahau at acute risk of taking her own life.

In other testimony, pathologist Gregory Davis returned to the witness stand.

One day earlier, Davis was asked about the report by the county medical examiner who said Zahau died by suicide.

“I agree with his conclusions,” Davis said.

In his cross examination on Tuesday, the attorney for the Zahau family asked the pathologist about the black paint used in a cryptic message on a mansion door and the paint found on Zahau’s body; on her hand and on her buttocks. Attorney Keith Greer asked the pathologist how Zahau could tie herself up, without leaving any paint on her rope bindings.

The two experts were the last witnesses to testify before the jury. Opening arguments are scheduled to begin on Monday.

Categories: Local San Diego News