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More details released on death at Coronado mansion

September 6, 2011 |  6:52 pm

In an unusual move, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and medical examiner on Tuesday released additional details about the death of Rebecca Zahau at the Spreckels mansion in Coronado.

But Dr. Jonathan Lucas, deputy medical examiner, said none of the findings change the conclusion that Zahau, 32, committed suicide by hanging.

"As in any comprehensive investigation, some findings cannot be entirely explained," Lucas said in a statement. "None of the observations listed ... are inconsistent with the conclusions reached regarding the cause and manner of death of Rebecca Zahau."

On Friday, Lucas, Sheriff William Gore and other law enforcement officials held a news conference to announce that their investigation had determined that Zahau killed herself after learning that the 6-year-old son of her boyfriend, pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai, was going to die of injuries suffered in a fall at the mansion while he was in her care.

Zahau's family has told reporters that they do not believe she committed suicide. The family was briefed by investigators in the days before the news conference.

In a release Tuesday, Lucas said there were bruises on Zahau's scalp, a T-shirt had been wrapped around her neck and was stuffed in her mouth, and there was blood on her inner thighs.

Lucas said the bruises were minor and may have been caused when she slipped over the balcony with the rope around her neck.

The T-shirt in the mouth is not unusual, he said. "It is not clear why it was there, although people can place material in her mouth prior to hanging," he said.

The blood was not the result of rape but probably due to an intrauterine device or menstruation, Lucas said.

Zahau was found hanging by her neck July 13, two days after Max Shacknai was injured in a fall. He died July 16 at Rady Children's Hospital.


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Rebecca Zahau. Credit: San Diego County Sheriff's Department