Coronado Police refuse to re-open mansion death case

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Dina Shacknai says she was shocked when police in Coronado, California refused to reopen the investigation into her son's death.

Six-year-old Max Shacknai died after a fall at the family's Coronado mansion in July of 2011. His father's girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau, was caring for him at the time.

Coronado Police ruled the death an accident, and said Max flipped over the grand staircase banister while playing in the upstairs hallway, and hit his back on a chandelier as he fell to the main floor.

Zahau was found dead days later, bound, naked, and hanging at the home. Her death was ruled a suicide.

Shacknai hired independent forensics experts to look at her son's case again.  In July, they concluded Max was the victim of an assault and homicide. They say the boy's height and center of gravity would have made it impossible to accidentally fall over the railing.  

Shacknai suspects Zahau had something to do with her son's death. She gave the new evidence to Coronado Police, who had promised to reopen the case if anything new surfaced.

"I trusted them and believed in them, and [they did not keep their word]," Shacknai told 3TV.

Coronado Police deemed Shacknai's experts' opinions 'insufficient' to warrant further study of the case.

"Their opinion was, 'Everyone's got experts and experts give different opinions.' I told them, 'It defies gravity and physics,' but he said he didn't think it does," Shacknai said, recalling her conversation with a Coronado Police official.

Shacknai says she has not been in contact with her ex-husband, pharmaceutical CEO Jonah Shacknai, about the investigation.  

She is promising to keep pressing for further study of her son's death. In the meantime, Dina Shacknai is taking some comfort in knowing her son's organs saved three lives.

"I just got a note from one of them," she said. "Max saved a young child and two adults.  Even in his death he's so generous."

Shacknai will appear on "Dr. Phil" in the coming days, and hopes to draw even more attention to the new foundation named for her son.

"Maxie's House" will work on various child-parent issues, and push for laws on background checks for people former spouses introduce to children in divorce cases.   

More information on the foundation is available  at

Dina Shacknai has posted all of her private experts' work at