Rebecca Zahau Suicide?

Rebecca Zahau

Originally published Sept 9, 2011-New Information added-Sept 24,2011:  The attorney for Rebecca’s Zahau’s family reported that a woman’s scream for help was heard at 11:30pm by a neighbor living a few doors down from the Shacknai mansion on the night that Rebecca Zahau “committed suicide”.  It is being re-published due to today’s ruling of wrongful death brought against Adam Shacnai, (brother fo Jonah Shacknai, then boyfriend of Rebecca Zahau) in a civil action adjudicated in a court in San Diego, California.

On July 11, 2011 tragedy struck in the life of Jonah Shacknai, the CEO of the company that makes the facial filler Restylane.  His six year old son, Max, lay unconscious on the marble floor at the base of a staircase, a lightweight chandelier beside him.  On July 13, 2011, tragedy struck Jonah again when his live in girl friend Rebecca was found hanging from an outside balcony.

Jonah’s brother, Adam, was the person who discovered her and cut her down.  She was utterly naked.  It was reported that her legs were bound at the ankles and her hands were bound behind her with the same red rope that was wrapped around her neck.  A sad, sad suicide to be sure for our poor Rebecca who no doubt was consumed by guilt for not having kept a closer eye on the rambunctious little boy who now lay in a coma at a nearby hospital.

Max succumbed to his injuries a few days after Rebecca’s tragic death and just seven weeks later, her death was ruled an official suicide by the San Diego coroner.  Case closed….a tragic accident followed by a pathetic suicide.

Not so fast, San Diego.  There is much left to explain. What woman commits suicide NUDE?  What human being performs Cirque Du Soleil contortions with rope, binding their wrists and ankles and then slithering up and over a second story lattice work balcony?  And then there are those inconvenient little details from the autopsy that say that residue from sticky tape nearly 2″ wide had been present on Rebecca’s lower legs at time of death.  Was she trying to remove her leg hairs with duct tape first?  And what about the hemorrhages found under her scalp?  I suppose she knocked herself out first, too.  And really, with her feet tightly bound, how did she get up over that flimsy rail?

A turquoise, long sleeved shirt was wrapped around Rebecca’s neck with some of the fabric stuffed into her mouth.  And there was a message in black paint on the door that read “She saved him, can you save her”.  Police noted that there was black paint on Rebecca’s hands. so clearly, they say,  she wrote the message as a kind of cryptic suicide note.

No, my dears, this was murder and some basic staging, she wrote.


Rebecca was 5′ 3″ in height.  Given the height of the lacy wrought iron balcony, it is highly unlikely that she could have made it over that railing on her own in her double bound condition.  The only way she could have managed this feat unassisted would be to tumble over it which would be possible had she been considerably taller.  Most likely, the top of the rail came up to the bottom of her rib cage. With her feet bound and hands tied behind her back, she could only clear it by rolling forward over the rail.  If the rail hit her at waist height or lower, this would be possible.  But she was only 5′ 3″, therefore, even if she stretched up on her toes, it is highly unlikely that she could perform this maneuver.

Now, let us consider the oddity of the shirt wrapped around her neck over the rope with part of it stuffed into her mouth  and the four bruises under her scalp…and the tape residue on her legs.  What story do these clues tell?  She was knocked unconscious and her legs were taped so that she could not escape.  The murderer then set to the task of staging the hanging, preparing the rope for her wrists, placing rope around her neck. During this process, she began to regain consciousness and the murderer grabbed a nearby shirt and stuffed it into her mouth and used the long sleeves to wrap it around her neck and tied the long sleeves together to keep it in place.  I suspect that she was then strangled back into unconsciousness at which point they pulled off the tape and bound her legs with the rope. They painted the odd few words on the door (she saved him, can you save her), then smeared a little paint on her hands.

She was then taken downstairs and outside.  The rope line was bundled and thrown UP TO the balcony.  The murderer ran back upstairs, grabbed the bundled line and hoisted her up, fastening the line to the foot of the bed.  She finally died of a slow asphyxiation at the end of the rope.

The demo that the police department provided of how a person COULD tie up their own hands, lean forward and step through to get their hands behind their back can only be done with unbound feet.  Once the hands are behind the back, how do you bind your feet?  If you bind your feet first, how do you step through to get your hands behind you?

Lastly, had she been thrown or jumped from upstairs, there would have been more footprints on that balcony.  If she bound her own feet while inside the room, she would have been able to take very tiny steps or hops to the rail.  There would be more than one clean set of footprints in the balcony dust.  If she bound herself while out on the balcony, same thing.  There would be evidence of the rope dragging around in the dust, evidence of her trying to jump through her arms, evidence of her stretching up onto her toes in order to tumble over.   Had the murderer thrown her or lowered her from above, again, there would be more footprints on that balcony.

A great deal of damage would have been done to the muscles and bones in her neck had she either jumped or been thrown from upstairs.  There would have been damage from the velocity of her 100 lbs of body weight focused under her jaw.  At the very least, there should have been crushed neck vertebrae and such a drop could have decapitated her.   Instead, her autopsy stated:

“RZ autopsy page 10: “There are no fractures of the cervical vertebrae and no epidural, subdural, or subarachnoid hemorrhage of the spinal cord. There is no spinal cord softening. The atlanto-occipital [b]junction is intact[/b].” RZ did not have any damage to her spinal cord, nor any bleeding or damage to the 3 layers of meninges covering her spinal cord. She did not sustain a classic Hangman’s Fracture. Therefore, death would not have been instantaneous. Probably 4 to 10 min or so.”  (courtesy of KZ’s post on the Hinky Meter)

This was a very cold murder by a very cold, very strong man… or men.  This was methodical and premeditated.  They left no prints, they wore gloves and they brought and removed tape.  This was not spontaneous and this was not a crime of passion.