California AG Won't Review Suicide Findings in Bizarre Death of Rebecca Zahau

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California Attorney General Kamala Harris will not review the investigation into the death of Rebecca Zahau.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has decided that she won't review the San Diego County Sheriff Department's findings that the bizarre death of Rebecca Zahau, the girlfriend of Scottsdale-based Medicis CEO Jonah Shacknai, was a suicide.

Earlier this week, Shacknai wrote Harris a letter asking her to review the case -- not because he didn't agree that the death was a suicide, but to "further enhance the public's confidence in the integrity of the law-enforcement process and finally bring closure to these terrible tragedies."

In Harris' reply to Shacknai's letter -- provided to New Times by the California Department of Justice -- Harris says the AG's Office only reviews cases handled by local law enforcement "under very narrow circumstances."

See the full letter below:

Dear Mr. Shacknai:

Thank you for your September 19 letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris, who sends her condolences for your profound loss. On behalf of both the Attorney General and her staff, we offer our sympathy for the tragedy that is the reason for your correspondence. Your letter requests an inquiry into the investigation that was conducted by the San Diego County Sheriff's Office. The California Department of Justice would review a local investigation under very narrow circumstances. Some of the factors that are considered before committing the state's scarce resources include whether a clear conflict of interest exists, whether a local law enforcement agency has requested assistance, whether local investigative resources have been exhausted, and whether there are allegations of gross malfeasance by the investigative agency. Based on a review of your request, we must decline your invitation to review this investigation at this time.

Please accept our sincerest condolences for your tragic loss, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Dane R. Gillette

For Kamala D. Harris.

Earlier this month, the SDCSD ruled the death was a suicide, despite the bizarre factors of her death -- for example, when she was found, Zahau was naked and had her hands and feet bound behind her back, and there was a cryptic message written on the door to the room where her body was found.

Zahau's body was found by Shacknai's brother just days after the CEO's son, Max, was rushed to a hospital in critical condition after falling down a flight of stairs in the mansion. Zahau was caring for the boy at the time of the fall.

Max Shacknai later died from his injuries.

"Were these deaths the result of criminal conduct? Was Max's death a homicide? The answer is no," San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said at a press conference earlier this month. "It was a tragic accident. Was Rebecca's death a homicide? Again the answer is no. It was a suicide ... These deaths were not the result of any criminal acts."

Despite the ruling, Zahau's apparent suicide remains controversial for a lot of reasons.

Aside from being found bound behind her back, naked, and hanging from a balcony, Zahau's autopsy revealed several unexplained head injuries a renowned forensic pathologist says don't necessarily support the theory that Zahau hung herself.

Pathologist Cyril Wecht reviewed Zahua's entire autopsy report. He finds the following:

"She has subgaleal hemorrhages; those are hemorrhages on the undersurface of the scalp. I see no reason why she should have those. You get those when your head strikes something or is struck by something."

Brain hemorrhaging could have happened when Zahau was cut down from the balcony -- she may have hit her head -- but it wouldn't have happened in four different places in the brain, Wecht concludes.

"Even if (her) scalp hit bushes, that kind of impact would not produce subgaleal hemorrhage," Wecht continues. "We're talking about contusions on the top of the head. So, even as the body is falling down - let's say there are branches - how do you get bruises on the top of the head as the body is falling vertically downward?"

Another tidbit the San Diego County Sheriff's Department left out during its press conference announcing its findings that Zahau's death was a suicide is a message left in black paint on a door near the room where Zahau was found hanging.

The SDCSD mentioned a message during the press conference, but wouldn't tell reporters what it said.

That message, the autopsy reveals, was the following: "She saved him can you save her?"

The message could possibly be referencing Max Shacknai. However, it seems if Zahau were the person who'd written the message, it would say "can you save me," not "can you save her." 
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37 comments
mick
mick

More than the murder vs suicide story in Coronado. How about the disgusting treatment of Rebecca during the 12+ hours waiting for the medicalexaminer to make an appearance. LE couldn't find it upon themselves to go to the hardware store and purchase a pop up canopy to cover her with.  This part of the story is so difficult for me to stomach-how does LE regain any public trust and respect after doing this to her. God help us all if those responsible for this third world decision go unpunished.

Judivincent
Judivincent

I CANNOT believe that the SDPD called this a suicide!  So stupid, and yet everyone will just accept it and move on.  Completely ridiculous, and no justice for this woman. However, I don't believe it was Jonah.  That wouldn't make sense.  He would have made it look more OBVIOUS as a sucide, not set it up so there were so many questions that could imply murder.  (bound hands and feet? naked?  no, if this was set up to "look like" a suicide,  there wouldn't be this many obvious inconsistencies).  Also, this happened very soon (just 2 days)after Max's fall.  If he was indeed angry with her, I think he would be too distraught at this point to "arrange" her death. 

More likely that Jonah pissed someone off, and this is the result.  Supposedly, he can be a jerk, and I imagine that he's angered a few people in business over the years. This man was involved with BIG MONEY, BIG BUSINESS!!  Surely, there is a POSSIBILTY that this death is related to that?   Also, angry exwife lived nearby and had past incidents of violence.   hmmm.......  I would think that Police would at least THINK about this possibility and look into Shacknai's busineess dealings and other relationships?  Were any large amounts of money transferred lately?  IS it possible he was  being blackmailed?  Could there be another woman involved?  Or was Max's fall NOT an accident (an enemy of Jonah's seeking revenge??) and Rebecca knew too much.  Yes, all this sounds crazy and out there, but the FACT IS that a naked woman was found BOUND and hanging in a millionaire's mansion 2 days after a freak accident of his son's......that's pretty crazy and out there, but that IS what happened.

In any case, you would think the "investigation" would not be able to declare suicide within a few days when so many questions exist.  These are professional investigators, and none of them even thought it was  POSSIBLE that someone killed her?.  That is what we are supposed to believe??. That the evidence was so OVERWHELMING that any further review into MR. Shacknai's business dealings or personal life would not be even CONSIDERED?  Okay, if they determined this after months of investigation, I might buy it.  But within 2 days!  (remember, body found HANGING NAKED, with hands and feet bound, and a gag in her mouth, and head wounds).  Really, murder not even CONSIDERED?  Really?  Really?

Ben Dover
Ben Dover

When Big Money is involved, a Suicide can be bought.  And the weird way this one happened, accepting this finding in California,I guess,  is just normal thinking for them folks. Incredible, huh.  I would take a real close look at the person that cut her down before investigators arrived.  Trying to save her?  Or using that ploy to destroy evidence?   This Suicide investigation STINKS. Hummmmmm!!!!!!

Satariel
Satariel

Newsflash: The wealthy are not subject to law.

R.M.R
R.M.R

Back in the 60's a guy in Texas was found lying dead with five shots IN HIS BACK.  He was one of the people linked to LBJ and a fraud investigation.  His death was ruled as a suicide also.  It really helps to have friends in high places.  What the saying "Money talks and the guilty walks".

Tubguy904
Tubguy904

distraught over severely lacking caregiver skills and weighed down by guilt over the death of the boy, she proceeded to bash her head into a wall....delirious she bound herself and then did in fact commit suicide........perhaps the note and other evidence to the contrary is an insurance scam play???

Tabby Smith
Tabby Smith

If you are rich you are exempt from taxes & justice.

Dtnorton
Dtnorton

Gee you guys think it was a murder? Just like the guy that shot himself in the head 10 times and stabbed himself 20 times. When I first head that the "police" were ruling it a suicide I could not believe it. That is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard.

Tubguy904
Tubguy904

distraught over severely lacking caregiver skills and weighed down by guilt over the death of the boy, she proceeded to bash her head into a wall....delirious she bound herself and then did in fact commit suicide........perhaps the note and other evidence to the contrary is an insurance scam play???

TamaraV
TamaraV

How many unbiased, uninvolved, disbelieving FARKians does it take to turn a lightbulb...or a deaf ear?

Concerned Reader
Concerned Reader

So, if you were trying to make it look mysterious and make it seem like it might be a murder, you'd go ahead and write in the 1st person and string yourself up like normal? 

All of your "clues" don't really prove squat, and neither does endlessly repeating them.  And I'm someone who really believed/maybe believes it's another cover-up for a rich person.  But there's absolutely nothing that's come out that convinces me it really *is* a cover-up. 

bingo bill
bingo bill

Look what happened to the West Memphis 3. Let out of Jail yet forced to sign guilty plea's so the assmasters that built their career's will never be held accountable. It's absurd. Prosecutors, sometimes, are no better than politicians, always speaking out of the sides of their mouths and playing games with justice. Where is the Justice Dept? Oh that's right, running guns to Mexicans and covering it up. 

EdPerry
EdPerry

Good legal work there, AG Harris.  You appear to be about as bright as any other dim bulb in California government.  Good grief, what a circus of clowns.

Sarahmint
Sarahmint

Or a circus of self serving sociopaths.

Jthurdd
Jthurdd

Sometimes things just happen, like the guy that shoots himself in the back of the head three times commiting suicide or the woman who chopped herself into 8 different pieces then buried herself in the backyard commiting suicide...It happens...

Subrosie
Subrosie

yes, your right, things like this just happen.  and people bent on hanging themselves always bind their feet up first, just to make it harder to hobble to the balcony and fling themselves over.  you know, in case they change their mind before they actually DO it.

Bob
Bob

The third person stuff is not that unusual for someone who speaks English as a second language. 

Josh
Josh

true.. just like non English speakers typically and miraculously bind their hands behind their backs while hanging, and bash their skull in 4 different places and then they die.

Jpsymn
Jpsymn

He is part of a cult, the son was saved from the cult when he was killed and the AG is in the cult also.

Sean Hannity
Sean Hannity

Perfectly normal...nothing to see here...move along.

That's a fine bit of police work, Lou.

Concerned Reader
Concerned Reader

So, are you just going to write the exact same story every time some type of minor news story mentions the incident indefinitely?

Guest23
Guest23

It seems every state attorney general and any prosecuter cannot admit they have made a mistake no matter how damning the evidence is. The West Memphis Three case is another example of this sort of injustice.

rakuspirit
rakuspirit

I wonder what Kamala Harris does all day besides write stupid letters telling the people of her state why their office will do nothing to aid them.  This past week I received a letter which is almost the same explanation for why the Attorney General's Office cannot assist me in an inquiry about bad business practices.  That is nothing compared to the death of a human being so you'd think they would have a more compassionate form letter.  That being said, what does the Attorney General do all day?  Does she even check into work?  What do her staff do besides come up with reasons why they won't assist people who contact  them.(Your issue is just not important enough for us to take into account.) 

Nojustice
Nojustice

Other evidence they didn't consider:  black glove in bedroom?  clumps of hair in bedroom?  neighbors testimony of screams coming from house?

AZGregory
AZGregory

It sounds like a job for Arpiehole's Cold Case Posse!

Eleanor
Eleanor

I wouldn't expect anything less than for them to say no.  Corruption doesn't only stay at one level it permeates them all.  I doubt that California's Attorney Generals Office is any less corrupt than Arizona's.

Tubes Fan
Tubes Fan

Ballsy move, now your ass is REALLY covered.

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