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Public Safety

New Report Questions Accident Ruling in Boy's Mansion Death

Max Shacknai
Max Shacknai

The Coronado Police Department is reviewing a recently completed independent report that questions its conclusion that the death of a boy at his father's mansion in the upscale peninsula city last summer was an accident, a representative of the department confirmed Moday.

The new analysis of the fatal injuries suffered by 6-year-old Max Shacknai in a fall down a stairwell at the Ocean Boulevard manor on July 11, 2011, seeks to refute the official ruling about the way in which he died.

"It would be more accurate to certify (the) manner as a homicide, where homicide is defined as death at the hands of another,'' the document states.


Max's mother, Dina Shacknai, and several attorneys representing her met with Coronado police Thursday and gave them the new analyses, the department's Lea Corbin said. It was unclear how long it would take department investigators to study the materials and reach conclusions about them, according to Corbin.

The report, compiled by forensic pathologist Judy Melinek and Robert Bove Jr., an expert in the biomechanics of injury, contends that the nature of the child's wounds was inconsistent the accepted accident scenario and instead point to an assault by an unknown party.

When Max suffered the fatal trauma, he was under the care of his father's girlfriend, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau of Arizona.

Two days later, Zahau's nude body was found was found hanging by the neck from a balcony railing at the 103-year-old ocean-front estate owned by pharmaceutical tycoon Jonah Shacknai. Though her hands and feet were bound, investigators ultimately ruled that she had killed herself, possibly out of guilt over what had happened to the boy.

Zahau's family has consistently disputed the suicide determination, arguing that she was slain by an unknown killer or killers.


In a prepared statement, Dina Shacknai explained that the law enforcement determination about the manner of her son's death "just didn't add up'' to her.

"When I started this process, all I knew is that I wanted the truth, wherever that led, like any parent would,'' she stated. "Even though nothing will bring my only child Maxie back, I owe it to him, as his mother, to make sure the true facts of his death are known.''

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