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Ten Year Old Zahau Death Still Mystifies

Keith Greer, the attorney for the family of Rebecca Zahau, addresses the medi...

Photo by John Carroll

Above: Keith Greer, the attorney for the family of Rebecca Zahau, addresses the media with Rebecca's sister Mary Zahau-Loehner by his side on Aug. 14, 2019.

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A new book “Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case” examines the event, the investigation and the lingering questions. Author, San Diego crime writer Caitlin Rother outlines the ... Read more →

Aired: April 26, 2021 | Transcript

The strange death of Rebecca Zahau, who was found hanging at Coronado’s Spreckels mansion continues to shock and puzzle even after 10 years. The San Diego County Sheriff’s department ruled the 32-year-old’s death a suicide in 2011, but a civil jury found her boyfriend’s brother guilty of wrongful death in the case in 2018, and this fall the Zahau family will be in court asking investigators for more documentation on the case.

A new book “Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case” examines the event, the investigation and the lingering questions.

Listen to this story by Maya Trabulsi.

San Diego crime writer Caitlin Rother outlines the facts of the case.

Rebecca Zahau was living in the mansion with her millionaire entrepreneur boyfriend Jonah Shacknai during the summer of 2011. Shacknai’s 6-year old son Max was visiting the house when he was found injured in the foyer, apparently following a fall from the staircase. Two days later, Zahau's body was found by Shacknai's brother, Adam. She was hanging naked from a garden balcony at the mansion, with her wrists and ankles bound. Shortly after she was found, Max was declared dead at the hospital.

Rother said there are questions that may never be answered about the case, but her book explores the various theories about the two deaths. She obtained transcripts of investigators’ interviews with the people involved. She also documented the complaints of poor forensic collection by the Sheriff’s department that may have contributed to the ongoing mystery.

Rother’s book reveals the little-known background of Zahau, that may help explain what happened, and the inconsistencies in the stories of others as the case evolved.

Rother, who spoke to Midday Edition for an interview on Monday, said her goal was not to take sides, or make any definitive judgement about what happened on Ocean Boulevard. Her goal was to follow the truth wherever it led.

Rother will be participating in two public, virtual book events this week, the first at the San Diego Public library's virtual branch on April 27 at 7 p.m. and on April 29 at 7 p.m. at the virtual Coronado public library.

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