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Mystery surrounds deaths at Spreckels Mansion

July 18, 2011 |  7:17 am


Authorities are trying make sense of two deaths over the last week at the Spreckels Mansion in Coronado.

On Sunday, the owner of the mansion, drug company executive Jonah Shacknai, announced his 6-year-old son, Max, died from a fall suffered Monday, July 11.

 The mansion was the site of the still-unexplained death of the Shacknai's girlfriend. Rebecca Nalepa, was found dead in the courtyard of the 27-room estate two days after Max Shacknai was taken to the hospital.

Her body was discovered hanging from a balcony, her hands and feet bound, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, which has said her death may have been a suicide.

The boy was injured in a fall from the grand staircase at the Ocean Boulevard mansion, near the Hotel Del Coronado. His death was announced by his father in an email to reporters.

"His loving, kind and vibrant spirit will forever be in our hearts and those whom he touched every day," Jonah Shacknai's email said. "The loss to our families, Max's many friends of all ages, and teammates, and the community is immeasurable."

"Despite heroic efforts on the part of paramedics and hospital staff, he was unable to recover from the injuries suffered early last week."

Shacknai and the boy's mother, Shacknai's ex-wife, Dina, were at the boy's bedside at Rady Children's Hospital, officials said.

The Sheriff's Department has said it has found no connection between the boy's fall and the death of Nalepa, 32. Her body was found by Shacknai's brother, Adam. The investigation into the death continues.

Jonah Shacknai is the founder and chief executive officer of Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp., based in Scottsdale, Ariz., which specializes in skin-care products.

Nalepa, who was divorced, was also known by her maiden name, Rebecca Zahau. She and Shacknai had reportedly been together for more than two years.


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Upper photo: The historic Spreckels mansion in Coronado last week. Credit: Gregory Bull / Associated Press