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Entries in Mary Zahau-Loehner (1)

Friday
Sep022011

Calif. Mansion Death Ruled Suicide; Sister Doesn't Buy It

Jonah Shacknai and Rebecca Zahau had a happy relationship of nearly three years according to Zahau's sister. Zahau was found dead at Shacknai's home in Coronado, Calif., on July 13. Police have not yet ruled out suicide. (ABC News)(LOS ANGELES) -- Investigators have concluded that a woman found hanged, bound and naked at a California millionaire's historic mansion took her own life, the dead woman's sister told ABC News.

Mary Zahau-Loehner said Friday police notified her Wednesday that they had ruled her sister's death a suicide, ending a six-week investigation. But Zahau-Loehner isn't buying the suicide ruling.

The body of Rebecca Zahau, 32, was found on the grounds of the Spreckels Mansion in Coronado, Calif., July 13. When police arrived they found Zahau on the back lawn, her hands tied behind her back and her feet bound.

"Their main reason is saying that they did not see any signs of struggle or physical injury that would show there's foul play," Zahau-Loehner said.

In addition, police reportedly told Zahau-Loehner they found two undated "notes" on Zahau's phone about her boyfriend, "but these were written several months ago and doesn't discuss anything about her being depressed or fed up with life or anything like that," she said. "That was their other basis -- saying it doesn't seem her life was in order. That upset me because they do not know Becky … you mean to tell me from two writings they're going to conclude, 'Oh, she must be really depressed.'"

Zahau's sister, a nurse practitioner who said she spoke to her sister almost every day, told ABC News Zahau had no psychiatric history, and had never taken anti-depressants or attempted suicide.

The notes on Zahau's phone didn't appear to have been sent to anyone, but referenced an "argument" she had with her boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, the 54-year-old multimillionaire founder and CEO of Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation in Scottsdale, Ariz., who has owned the mansion since 2007.

His brother and houseguest Adam Shacknai may have been the last person to see Zahau alive.

Adam Shacknai told police he had cut Zahau down from the balcony after he found her hanging.

"We have had other cases in the past where people have used creative ways to commit suicide" including people whose hands were tied behind their back, San Diego sheriff spokesman Roy Frank told ABC News in July.

For nearly two months, Zahau's mysterious death made headlines across the nation. And as time passed, Zahau's family and friends struggled to understand why police had not ruled out suicide.

"Rebecca was a beautiful, vibrant, loving and kind person and she would never do this to herself," Zahau-Loehner told ABC News in July.

Zahau and Shacknai, who had been together for more than two years, seemed happy together, she said. Zahau-Loehner also told ABC News on Friday that she had spoken to her sister the night before she died, and talked about her plans for the following day.

Two days before Zahau's body was found, 6-year-old Max Shacknai, Jonah Shacknai's son, fell down the stairs at the mansion.

"She was going to call mom and dad the next morning and text me throughout the day with updates on Max," Zahau-Loehner said at the time. "She was very hopeful. She had to be strong and there for Jonah."

Zahau, a former ophthalmic technician, performed CPR on Max and asked her younger sister, who was also there at the time, to call 911, Zahau-Loehner told ABC News. Paramedics also performed CPR, but Max "was not breathing and did not have a pulse," Coronado Police Chief Louis Scanlon told reporters in July.

Zahau had been planning to take food and clothes to Shacknai after Max's accident because he was staying in the hospital with his son, Zahau-Loehner said. "And she asked me to tell mom that she's going to call."

The boy died of his injuries July 17.

Investigators told Zahau-Loehner recently Max's death was ruled an accident.

Zahau reportedly had a close relationship with Max.

"At first I thought she might be his mother," Zahau's former personal trainer, Scott Markey, told ABC News. "They seemed like they were very happy. She was always smiling with him. They had a very good relationship."

Zahau-Loehner said her family has hired Seattle attorney Anne Bremner, who told USA Today the San Diego Sheriff's Department's finding was "ridiculous" and "doesn't pass the smell test."

Bremner could not be immediately reached for comment.

Zahau-Loehner said the family will request that police look further into her sister's death and not rush into any conclusions.

"I do not want my sister's death to be ruled a suicide just because you don't have enough evidence to rule a homicide," she said. "Nothing adds up."

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