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Death at Spreckels Mansion may be suicide, authorities say

July 14, 2011 | 11:39 am


The woman found dead at the Spreckels Mansion in Coronado may have committed suicide, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said Thursday.

Rebecca Nalepa, 32, the live-in girlfriend of the home's owner, Jonah Shacknai, the founder and owner  of an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company, was found dead in the courtyard of the mansion.

Sheriff''s Capt. Tim Curran said that Shacknai's brother, Adam, made an emergency call Wednesday morning saying he had found Nalepa hanging by her neck from a balcony. When police arrived, her nude body was found in the courtyard, her hands and feet bound.

Curran said that Adam Shacknai told police that he had cut down Nalepa's body in apparent hopes she was still alive.

"We are not ready to determine if this was a suicide or a criminal act," Curran said. He said that Adam Shacknai is considered a witness, not a suspect or even a "person of interest."

The only people at the 27-room mansion at the time were Nalepa and Adam Shacknai, Curran said.

Jonah Shacknai and his ex-wife were reportedly at a local hospital at the bedside of their 6-year-old son, who was seriously injured Monday in a fall at the mansion.

Police have found no link between the child's injury and the death of Nalepa, Curran said.

The mansion was built in 1908 by sugar baron and philanthropist John D. Spreckels.


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego