Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The sister of a woman who was found hanging at a historic Coronado mansion told ABC News she does not believe she committed suicide.
Rebecca Zahau's body was found on the grounds of the 103-year-old Spreckels Mansion last Wednesday.
"Rebecca was a beautiful, vibrant, loving and kind person and she would never do this to herself," said Zahau's sister Mary Zahau-Loehner in an interview with ABC News.
Zahau was the girlfriend of mansion owner Jonah Schaknai. Two days before her death, Schaknai's 6-year-old Max fell down the stairs at the mansion. The boy died Sunday from the fall.
Zahau's sister said the day before her death, she called her and discussed plans for the following day.
"She was going to call mom and dad the next morning and text me throughout the day with updates on Max," Zahau-Loehner said. "She was very hopeful. She had to be strong and there for Jonah."
Shacknai's brother, Adam, told investigators that he found Zahau naked with a rope around her neck hanging from from a balcony. He cut her down, authorities said. Sheriff's Capt. Tim Curran said Adam and Jonah Shacknai were only witnesses, not "persons of interest'' and that Zahau's death did not appear related to Max's death.
Shacknai, founder of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp., has not spoken publicly about his girlfriend's death but issued a statement Sunday regarding his son.
"With great sadness, Dina and I convey the tragic passing for our beloved son, Max," Shacknai said on behalf of himself and his ex-wife, the boy's mother. "Despite heroic efforts on the part of paramedics and hospital staff, he was unable to recover from the injuries suffered early last week. His loving, kind and vibrant spirit will forever be in our hearts and those whom he touched every day.''
Coroner's investigators refused to talk about how Shacknai's girlfriend died, or even say whether it was thought to be a suicide, a homicide or an accident.
Shacknai, 54, makes anti-aging products and has owned the $7 million Spreckels mansion since 2007. His ex-wife, Max's mother, reportedly lives a short distance from the mansion.
Spreckels, one of San Diego's wealthiest and most renowned developers, built the estate in 1908, which includes two auxiliary residences.