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Mother of boy killed in mansion fall claims 'new information'

July 17, 2012 | 11:59 am

Boy dies at Coronado mansion
An attorney representing the mother of a 6-year-old boy who fell to his death at a Coronado mansion last year said her client had information leading her to believe the boy's death was not an accident.

The remarks came Monday — the one-year anniversary of Max Shacknai's death — at a news conference in Phoenix, where his mother, Dina Shacknai, spoke publicly for the first time about the incident.

Dina Shacknai's lawyer, Angela Hallier, told reporters her client had information from "privately retained experts," making her "certain that the accident scenario ... is inaccurate." She declined to provide details, saying they had requested a meeting with Coronado police.

Max was injured July 11, 2011, after falling down the grand staircase at the historic Spreckels mansion then owned by his father, pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai, who split his time between Phoenix and Coronado. Two days later, the naked body of the father's live-in girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau, 32, was found hanging from a second-story balcony at the mansion.

The boy died of his injuries July 16, 2011.

The deaths triggered intense scrutiny and public speculation, even after officials declared Max's death an accident and Zahau's a suicide.

Dina Shacknai held the news conference Monday to announce the creation of a nonprofit in her son's honor. Maxie's H.O.U.S.E. will work to provide resources for parents and children that "focus on the protection and safety of children from blended families regardless of which parent and caregiver they are with," she said during the Phoenix news conference.

Shacknai told reporters she had asked to meet with her ex-husband's girlfriend after learning how much time Max was spending with Zahau. She didn't feel comfortable after the meeting, she said, because Zahau gave her some "inaccurate" information about her past.

"Not wanting to go back to the courts, I sat down with Jonah to see what we could do to help me feel more comfortable with having Max ... be around Rebecca," she said, adding she initially asked her ex-husband that he not leave Max alone with Zahau.

Max was in Zahau's care at the time of the fall, authorities said.

"This is exactly why I founded Maxie's H.O.U.S.E.," Shacknai said. "Maxie's legacy reminds us of how undeniably important it is that every child have the right to be safe in their own home, wherever that home is."


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Photo: Six-year-old Max Shacknai fell down a grand staircase at the historic Spreckels mansion in Coronado on July 11, 2011, while in the care of his father's girlfriend. The boy died from his injuries July 16. Credit: Mike Blake / Reuters