(CORONADO, Calif.) — Rebecca Zahau was 32 years old when she was found dead July 13, 2011, at a Coronado, California, mansion.
The home belonged to her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai, who founded Medicis Pharmaceutical, a company ultimately worth billions of dollars.
At the time of Zahau’s death, Jonah Shacknai was at the hospital, where his 6-year-old son Max was in critical condition after falling from a second-story landing in the mansion. Three days later, Max died of his injuries.
It was Jonah Shacknai’s brother, Adam Shacknai, who discovered Zahau’s body and called 911. Adam Shacknai had flown to California from his home in Tennessee after Max’s tragic accident.
“I got a girl, hung herself … it’s on Ocean Boulevard across from the, hotel,” Adam Shacknai told the 911 operator.
He said that Zahau’s body was hanging from a balcony and that he was able to cut her down from the red rope she was tied with. He also told the 911 operator that he had desperately tried to resuscitate her.
When authorities arrived that morning, they found Zahau’s body completely nude. Her feet were bound, and her hands were tied behind her back. A shirt was stuffed into her mouth.
With two mysterious deaths at the same house in the span of a few days, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department launched a full investigation.
Seven weeks after Zahau and Max’s deaths, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department announced its findings: Max’s death was an accident and Zahau’s official cause of death was suicide.
When it came to Zahau’s death, investigators said an autopsy as well as DNA and fingerprint analyses showed no signs that she had been attacked.
Zahau’s family was outraged over the investigation’s findings.
“Rebecca does not have a suicidal personality at all,” her sister Mary Zahau-Loehner told ABC News’ “20/20.”
Nearly seven years after Zahau’s mysterious death, her family’s wrongful-death lawsuit is now going before a jury in San Diego federal court.
Zahau-Loehner and her mother Pari Zahau believe she was murdered and are seeking unspecified damages in a civil trial that began this week.
The wrongful death lawsuit names Adam Shacknai as the one responsible for her death. The Sheriff’s Department told ABC News it would examine any new evidence that should emerge. Adam Shacknai declined ABC News’ requests for comment. Authorities cleared Adam Shacknai in Rebecca’s death years ago, and he has denied any involvement in her death.
Read on to see some of what the San Diego Sheriff’s Department found at the scene of Rebecca Zahau’s death, and watch the full story on ABC News’ “20/20” Friday night at 10 p.m. ET.
A message was found painted on a door in Zahau’s room, saying: “She saved him, can he save her.”
Zahau was found hanging from a balcony outside of her room. San Diego Sheriff’s Department investigators said only Zahau’s toe and heel prints were found on the balcony, along with a man’s boot print, which they determined was left by a detective.
Zahau’s feet were found bound at the ankles, and her hands were tied at the wrists behind her back with a red rope.
The red rope
The other end of the red rope that Zahau was hanging from was tied to her bed.
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