San Diego police discuss mansion deaths in Coronado


by Jared Dillingham and The Associated Press

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

Posted on July 19, 2011 at 8:54 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 19 at 9:32 PM

CALABASAS, Calif. - Residents of a wealthy San Diego suburb known for its safe streets, world-class beaches and small-town feel are shocked by two mysterious deaths within a week, both tied to a historic mansion.

The first came when Rebecca Zahau, the 32-year-old girlfriend of Arizona pharmaceuticals tycoon Jonah Shacknai was found dead Wednesday, her nude body hanging from balcony of his Coronado home, her wrists and ankles bound.

Two days earlier, Shacknai's son, Max, 6, who was being cared for by Zahau, fell down the stairs and was hospitalized. His parents said late Sunday that he died from his injuries.

Investigators on Tuesday told 3TV they are looking into the possibility that the deaths could be linked. They are looking for clues into Zahau's mental state and trying to see if Max's fall or something else could have led her to suicide.

San Diego Sheriff's Sgt. Roy Frank said suicides and homicides often look alike, even in the bizarre death of Zahau.

"Suicides are unusual. We've seen people who've bound their hands and feet together before committing suicide.  People are creative and put a lot of thought into it," said Frank.

Frank added, it could be many more days or weeks before Zahau's autopsy results are released.

"We only get one shot at this, and we have to make sure we get it right."

Investigators consider Jonah Shacknai, his ex-wife, Dina, and his brother, Adam, all witnesses in Zahau's death. Frank says all have been cooperative.

Shacknai founded Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation, based in Scottsdale, and has made millions off botox alternatives and other anti-aging treatments and skincare products.

Shacknai's 27-room home, known as the Spreckels mansion, is one of the more storied properties in a city of multimillion-dollar homes. It has unobstructed beach views and sits near Coronado's main street, which is lined with palm trees and upscale boutiques.