Several weeks ago, Max Shacknai, the son of a successful pharmaceutical businessman fell to his death on the stairway of their Coronado, California mansion. The father, Dr. Jonah Shacknai, is a Phoenix resident. Days later, Dr. Shacknai’s girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau, was found hanging naked from a balcony of the same mansion.
This bizarre set of incidents has set off much speculation as to how these deaths occurred. On Friday, Coronado police released the details of their investigation. Max’s death was accidental, Rebecca’s was ruled a suicide.
The police were obviously under much pressure to conduct a pristine investigation. The relatives of Ms. Zahau have hired an attorney to contest the notion that her death was a suicide. Their key contentions, it seems, rely on two facts. First, Rebecca was found naked. Apparently this is extremely uncommon in suicides. Second, her hands and feet were bound–also uncommon.
The police were able to show how she could have bound herself and they also pointed to the fact there was no evidence of a struggle, no evidence of other fingerprints or DNA, and no evidence of a murder conspiracy.
Criminal defense attorneys know that most homicide investigations are not complex. Furthermore, most of the time they start with spouses or partners as the prime suspects. What has not been talked about much in the Shacknai case is opportunity. Did the doctor have the opportunity to commit a homicide? Where was he when Rebecca was hung? Where are his cell phone records?
I agree with the police that this case was most likely a bizarre accident followed by a bizarre suicide. However, I am just curious to know who was where when the hanging occurred. It seems to me that modern technology could resolve many of the relative’s concerns. I feel for their emotions, and I think that the police could do a bit more to close the loose ends.