Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Rebecca Zahau’s Family Sues Sheriff’s Department For Investigation Records

Dr. Jonathan Lucas, of the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, talks ...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Dr. Jonathan Lucas, of the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, talks in front of a photo of Rebecca Zahau about his department's original finding at a news conference in San Diego, Friday, Sept. 2, 2011.

Family of Rebecca Zahau on Monday filed a lawsuit against the San Diego County Sheriff's Department for records of the investigation into her death.

The family claims the department is withholding records that would contradict its finding that Zahau killed herself following the death of her boyfriend's 6-year-old son, Max.

On July 13, 2011, Zahau was found hanging by her neck above a rear courtyard at the Coronado beachfront home of her boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai. Zahau was gagged, with her ankles bound and her wrists tied behind her back.

Two days before Zahau's body was discovered, Shacknai's son was gravely injured in a fall over a second-story stairway banister inside the stately Ocean Boulevard home, known locally as the Spreckels Mansion. The boy died five days after the accident, which occurred while he was under Zahau's care.

Despite two law enforcement rulings that Zahau's death was a suicide, Zahau's family contends Shacknai's brother, Adam, murdered her, possibly in retaliation for the death of his nephew. Adam was staying at the mansion at the time.

In 2018, the Zahau family won a wrongful death lawsuit against Adam. He was ordered to pay $5 million dollars to Zahau's family.

RELATED: Rebecca Zahau’s Sister Offers $100,000 Reward For New Info In 2011 Death

The family is also petitioning the Medical Examiner Office to change Zahau's cause of death to homicide or undetermined.

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.