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Hi there, everybody. It's Deborah Roberts here, co-anchor of 2020. I always like to know how a story turns out, and something tells me that you, as a 2020 podcast listener, feel the same way. Welcome to the 2020 True Crime Vault, where we are revisiting some of the most memorable stories from our archives. We're also going to give you an update on what's happened since the story first air. Take a listen. Coming up. You would have to throw yourself over headfirst, bound and gagged. Why would a young woman tie herself up like this before hanging herself? Who does that? I'll tell you who does that. Nobody. But police say she did in a baffling case that made national headlines. Was found naked and hanging from a balcony of the mansion.Bi a rope. Part of a book by crime writer Anne Ruhe, a mystery involving a well-known millionaire. Joanna, welcome back to the show. And the suspicious death in a historic waterfront mansion. There was a dead body, a woman found nude hanging off a balcony. Oh, my goodness. Everybody was all over. Especially when they heard rumors of witchcraft. And I said, What? My girlfriend, whom I loved, is dead.


It was surreal. And the millionaire's brother who found her body. Does it seem to you like it's a suicide then? Yes, absolutely. But When authorities ruled case closed. They never wanted to investigate my sister's death to find out the truth. 2020 picked up with our own investigation. So you'd have to take one more hop, which I don't want you to do. A grieving family wants answers they can accept. Was it suicide or was there a killer close to home? It's a mystery, and I don't like mysteries. Let's get the answers. I'm John Quinones. It's a story of not one but two tragedies. Six-year-old Max Shacknay dead after a fall at his father's house. And his father's living girlfriend, her lifeless body, found two days after Max's fall. No one said they witnessed either death, and there were many questions. How did Max come to end up fatally injured? And did Rebecca Zahao, reportedly distraught over Max's fall, commit suicide, or did someone kill her? As Sunny Austin first reported in 2018, the clues left behind a red rope, a book on witchcraft, and a cryptic message would provide few answers. But we begin with the words of true crime writer, Anne Rule.


The dark-haired woman was beautiful, even in death. And the sunlight dappled her naked body. Her name was Rebecca, the girlfriend of pharmaceutical tycoon, Jonas Shacknay. She was 32. The way Rebecca Zahal died was strange enough. It was almost like a movie. You can't make this stuff up. But where it happened made it all the more bizarre. Having something like this happen in Coronado was just so shocking. Coronado is really an island with a bridge coming out of San Diego. You run in the ocean, and then there's these mansions, one after another after another. And of all In one of the beautiful spots in Coronado, the body was discovered at one of the most historic, the Spreckles mansion. Spreckles mansion was named after a sugar king. Spreckles mansion has so many bedrooms you can hardly count them all. Grand staircases. You don't really think of a dead body hanging off of the balcony when you ride by. Rebecca Zahal came a very long way to end up dead in Coronado. Her family was royalty in a remote part of a remote land, the country once known as Burma. She was funny. She could always relate to anybody.


If Rebecca walked into the room, everybody remembers Rebecca was there. After the family was forced to flee their homeland, Rebecca ended up nearly 10,000 miles away in America. She was very excited to come to the US. She was very, very excited about starting a new life and then she found it. Part of that new life? Her job in an ophthalmology office. She was an ophthalmology tech. To anywhere from rooming people to getting them ready for surgery, like cataract surgery, any eye surgeries. Did she like that? Oh, she loved her job. One day, a patient came in whose eyes worked plenty well enough to notice the beautiful technician, his name, Jona Shacknay. Rebecca was completely full of life. She was a very enthusiastic person. Rebecca had no idea what a catch she just attracted. Jona Shacknay was absolutely loaded. This is the guy behind Metasys Pharmaceutical, which is the Coca-Cola of the medical cosmetics industry, a company ultimately worth billions of dollars.Jona, welcome back to the show.Thanks. Great to be here, Jim. Shacknay was a star in the business world, known for his innovative products. Metasys Pharmaceutical found the Holy Grail. They figured out how to create something similar to Botox.


But when he met Rebecca, he says the attraction was much more than skin deep. Well, we both love to be outdoors. We're both workout enthusiasts. We both like clean living, clean food that just made it very compatible on a daily basis. The more he learned about Rebecca's past, what she went through escaping Burma, the more she fascinated him. I just had enormous admiration for her just because they were running and trying trying to find a place to have a stable life. Now, it was as if Rebecca had stumbled upon Prince Charming, but some say their life together was no fairy tale. Rebecca Zaha's family was not keen on the relationship. There was no ring on the finger. He already had several children. Two teenagers from his first marriage and a little boy named Max from his second. He liked to be with people. He loved to play soccer. He loved hotels. His smile would open doors. His mother, Dina, says having a son like Max was like hitting the lottery. Ciao. He was so open and so loving and so engaged in the world that he would engage other people. And according to Jonas Shacknay, Max definitely connected with Rebecca.


Max loved Rebecca. She was extremely attentive and warm, and she had no children of her own. And I think she was a great influence on Max. They had their own love story. There There was friction between Dina Shacknay and Rebecca. Dina wasn't crazy about the new girlfriend moving in on her six-year-old son. When you have blended families, no mom is jumping for joy saying, Oh, somebody else is going to be-Around your child. I thought we had a good working relationship together. What was Dina's relationship like with Rebecca? It was not a friendly relationship. It was not friendly at all. Did you approve of the time she spent with Maxi? I didn't disapprove of it. In fact, I would expect it, which is the reason that I wanted to meet her, so that she and I would have a good relationship, so that Max would feel like it was okay. They were not close. I think there were times when Dina made it a bit difficult for Rebecca. But no one could have imagined just how difficult things were about to become. It was July the 11th. It was in the morning. Donna Shack and I had already gone to work out at a nearby gym.


And Rebecca was in the house with her little sister, Zina. She happened to be visiting. Zina is in one part of the home. Rebecca is in another part of the home. Max is on the second floor, and he's playing. When something awful happened. 911, where's your emergency? Rebecca's sister, Zina, called 911. He fell down the stairs. He's not breathing. Somehow, six-year called Max had taken a horrific fall, which neither Rebecca nor Zina saw. Rebecca called Jona. I sprinted into the house and saw Max laying on the floor. When I first saw him, He had tubes coming out of every orifice in his body. For any parent, you see your son like that. I just thought, Wow. Did she ever tell you how he had the accident? I said, What happened? And she said, I really don't know. When I came out, he was there on the floor. She's like, Dina is going to kill me. I said, What do you mean? She's like, Well, she's going to kill me. And she repeated it several times. During the family emergency, the parents held vigil by Max's bedside. And the next day, Jona's brother Adam flew in from Tennessee.


Adam came to be with us and to be of whatever support he could. Anyone that's had a child with a grave injury understands understands that it's the loneliest place on earth. Adam Shacknay was in the guest house. Rebecca was at home. Those were the only two in the house. They weren't that well known to one another, but they were exceedingly cordial. Both good people that I think had all eyes and prayers on Max. But a bad situation was about to get worse. Is there an emergency? What are you reporting? I got a girl on herself. Is she still alive? I don't think so. She was dead. Saw who's body was found hanging. She was nude. Was it an accident? There were so many questions about what happened to this woman. The police saw on the door, She saved him. Can you save her? It was like a riddle. Nobody could figure out what it meant. She saved him. Can you save her? That doesn't even make sense. Stay with us. When you find new ways to save, you can reach your financial goals more easily and still have the occasional treat. Join millions of Chime members who are working on financial progress.


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Boots are available to eligible CHIM members enrolled in SpotMe and are subject to monthly limits. Terms and conditions apply. Go to chime. Com/disclosures for details. Hey, I'm Andy Mitchell, a New York Times best-selling author. And I'm Sabrina Kohlberg, a morning television producer. We're moms of toddlers and best friends of 20 years. And we both love to talk about being parents, yes, but also pop culture. So we're combining our two interests by talking to celebrities, writers, and fellow scholars of TV and movies. Cinema, really. About what we all can learn from the fictional Mom's we love to watch. From ABC Audio and Good Morning, America, pop Culture Mom's is out now wherever you listen to podcasts. Six-year-old Max Shacknay is in critical condition after a fall off the second floor landing of his father's home. Rebecca Zahao, who was caring for Max at the time is reportedly devastated over what happened. But Max's fall will not be the only tragedy at the mansion that week. And some will say what was about to happen was no accident. Most murder victims know their killers. And so superior detectives look first for connections, the interweaving of lives that may have led to homicide.


Wednesday, July 13th, 2011. As the sun rises over Coronado, Adam Shacknay walks into a scene of horror at the Spreckles mansion. Adam was the one who came out of the in his house sometime after 6:30, and he saw Rebecca's body hanging from the balcony. He called 911. Is there an emergency? What are you reporting? Yeah, I got a girl on herself. It's on Ocean Boulevard, across from the hotel, same place that you came and got to cave yesterday. Okay, sir. Is she still alive? I don't know. Okay. Sir, are you there? Are you alive? Hello. Hello. Adam is able to cut Rebecca's body down, and he desperately tries to resuscitate her. It should be on help. I'm doing... I'm compressing your chest right now. Okay, listen to me. Help is coming right now, okay? But by the time help does arrive, it's already too late. Rebecca Zaha is dead. Her boyfriend, Jonas Shacknay, is at the hospital where his son, Max, is in critical condition. He receives an urgent text from his brother Adam to call him. And he told me that Rebecca had taken her life. And I said, What? Can you imagine the impact of something like that when I was already facing certainly the biggest crisis of my life.


So, yeah, it was surreal. But if Rebecca had taken her own life, it would be a truly puzzling way to commit suicide, as seen in these graphic police photos. No woman would bind their feet with rope, bind their hands behind their back, put a T-shirt around their neck, gag it in their mouth, and then jump over a balcony Anybody that looks at this says this could not be a suicide. That's just impossible. 32-year-old Rebecca Zahal was found-It was found bound and hanging from a balcony. News of the bizarre death at the famous mansion spreads like wildfire. As soon as we heard there was a dead body, a woman found nude hanging off a balcony off the Spreckles mansion. Oh, my goodness. Everybody was all over. A six-year-old, Max, has died due to complications from a fall inside the home. The medical examiner-And the story becomes even more tragic when just three days after Rebecca's death, Max dies in the hospital. I miss his presence. I miss his wisdom, his laughter, his love. I miss watching him grow With two mysterious deaths in the same house in the space of a few days, the San Diego Sheriff's Department launches a full investigation.


The scene was pretty suspicious. We are not ready to determine whether it was a suicide or a criminal act. We were able to obtain a copy of the Sheriff's Department's investigation into Rebecca's death, and it raises a number of questions. Rebecca's room is shrouded in mystery. One end of the red rope that she was hung with is to her bed. The other end leads out to the balcony where her footprints are found, as well as a man's bootprint. Detectives note a curious book found on a shelf, Buckland's Complete Book of witchcraft. As Part of a write, it shows drawings of a naked woman with her hands tied behind her back and mentions that red cord should be used. They would say, Well, maybe she was into some things that were of the occult or kinky or things like that. Perhaps the biggest enigma of all is found right on Rebecca's door. A cryptic message scrawled in black paint. She saved him. Can you save her? Nobody could figure out what it meant. It didn't really make any sense because we didn't know who he or she were. Suspitions of a possible homicide ratchet up when a neighbor comes forward, telling police she heard desperate screams coming from the direction of the mansion that night.


It was the first time he had a look at the woman. I heard the woman yell, and then yell for help. She went, Help, help. Suspition by investigators immediately falls on Adam Shacknay, the only one staying at Spreckles with Rebecca at the time. Look straight ahead. To remove suspicion, Shacknay agrees to take a police lie detector test the very day he found Rebecca's body. Regarding the death of Rebecca, did you yourself do anything to her that resulted in her death? No. Shacknigh neither passes nor fails the test. You could have done a whole lot worse on the test. Could have done a whole lot better, too. But based on what I've got here, we're in an inconclusive range, which really doesn't bother me that much. Not much is known about the younger brother of Millionaire tycoon, Jonas Shacknight. I think he definitely has a different personality than Jonas. I mean, it probably might be hard to be Jonas's brother, but he really has carved out his own niche. I love you, Uncle Adam. Adam is a very nice guy. He's the captain of a tugboat. He wakes up, and his life has changed forever just because of where he was, the wrong place at the wrong time.


But what about ex-wife Dina. Remember, Rebecca's family talked of tension between her and Dina. And after Max's accident, police overheard Rebecca telling her sister that Dina is going to kill me. Adding fuel to the fire, an eyewitness comes forward, telling authorities he saw a woman matching Dina's description approach the mansion's front door late the night before Rebecca's death. The mystery of what happened at the Spreckles mansion, hangs heavy in the Coronado air. But as the weeks pass, there are no arrests. Each day that went by was a day without answers, and it was frustrating. Finally, the Sheriff's Department calls a conference to announce that they have solved the mystery. Were these deaths the result of criminal conduct? Coming up, the official cause of death and why it would enrage Rebecca's family. They never wanted to investigate my sister's death to find out the truth. But just how far would Rebecca's family go to solve the mystery? Her body was exhumed on television. It's terrible. Stay with us. Why is everyone so excited? Because the private sail at Kildare Village is back, with 20% off participating brands on top of the usual exceptional savings. You've got to get excited about that.


Simply become a member at kildarevillage. Com for the private sale. Now on at Kildare Village. See terms and conditions at kildarevillage. Com. We've got the exclusive view behind the Table. Every day, right after the show, while the topics are still hot, the ladies go deeper into the moments that make The View, The View. The Views Behind the Table podcast. Listen wherever you get your podcast. The very wealthy are not immune to scandal. Being rich doesn't assure safety, not at all. Sometimes it attracts aberrant minds. Months have passed since those two mysterious deaths at the landmark Spreckles mansion. First, six-year-old Max Shacknay had somehow taken a fatal fall off a second-story landing. Then, just two days later, 32 old Rebecca Zahal was found hanged to death at Spreckles under highly suspicious circumstances. Detectives this morning are investigating the mysterious death of a woman. We're told there are no suspects, and no one's been ruled out as a suspect. People run pins and needles. What were the What was the cause of death? What happened to Max? What happened to Rebecca? I'd like to introduce Sheriff Bill Gore. Finally, seven weeks after Rebecca and Max's deaths, Sheriff Bill Gore calls a press conference to announce his department has solved the mysteries.


Were these deaths the result of criminal conduct? Was Max's death a homicide? The answer is no. Was Rebecca's death a homicide? Again, the answer is no. Gore and his team lay out their findings. Max's death, they say, was the result of a freak household accident. Something caused him to trip, whether it was a ball, whether it was the dog or something that he then tripped and fell over that railing, grabbing the chandelier. When it came to Rebecca's death, investigators say it had nothing to do with witchcraft, and certainly not homicide. They say the autopsy and DNA and fingerprint analysis showed no signs that Rebecca had been attacked. Fingerprint Footprints from the balcony door and the bed leg directly next to the rope were all from Rebecca. Dna profiles from the victim's bindings were only from Rebecca. Investigators would later discount as unreliable, the report from that neighbor who said she heard screams for help that night. As for that mysterious male footprint on the balcony, they said it was accidentally left by a police officer. Investigators say that the fact that only Rebecca's footprints were on the balcony confirmed their suicide conclusion. Toe impressions on the balcony were consistent with a person moving up next to the railing and leaning forward and going over the railing.


But if it was suicide, how could Rebecca have tied her own hands behind her back in such a seemingly intricate way? Investigators show this video of how a female officer is able to first tie herself up, then slip one hand out of a news and put it back in with her hands behind her back. They conclude that Rebecca did the exact same thing. Just a simple matter of slipping her hand out. The bindings were not tight. When they presented their case, we were all looking at each other like, Really? Really? But of course, there's still the question, why? Why would Rebecca commit suicide in the first place? Investigators say Rebecca had been under stress and hit a breaking point after listening to a voicemail message saying just how grave Max's condition was. I left her a voice message, pretty upset. Jonas Shacknay says he was the one who left that grim voicemail message for Rebecca. All I can think is that Rebecca saw what had happened, felt responsible in some way, not that she did anything, but that she was entrusted with Max, and that that was too much to bear. Our condolences go to their family.


We also would ask, because of that, that you allow them to go through the grieving process. If law enforcement thought Rebecca's family would take their grief and go quietly into the good night, they were dead wrong. They treated my sister like garbage. And I believe they felt like they came to a quick conclusion that Becky most likely had something to do with Maxis, and she deserved what she got. Did you ever believe that your sister was suicidal in any way? No. Rebecca does not have a suicidal personality at all. Rebecca's family turns their outrage over the Sheriff's investigation into action. They hire high-profile attorney, Anne Bremner, who helps them take their case to the media. They wanted to get the word out because they were powerless with the police. So they took their message and they put it out to millions of people. The cause of death of this millionaire's girlfriend. Rebecca's case is featured on the Dr. Phil show. One of his guests is Dina Shacknay, who is also unhappy with the sheriff's findings. She says an expert she retained concluded that Max's death wasn't an accident. Do you believe that this whole scenario of what happened that resulted in Max's death is just completely He was really wrong.


Max going over the banister, his center of gravity was too low, and it defied the laws of physics. Max, he was too short. In this photograph that was circulated, they made him a lot taller. His center of gravity was too low to go over a banister like that. You have really devoted your life to finding out what happened to Maxie. He was my only son. On another episode, Rebecca's family controversially exhumes her body and has renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht conduct a second autopsy. Wecht notes four small hemorrhages on Rebecca's scalp that he says could be a possible indicator of foul play. I lean very strongly toward it being a homicide. The San Diego County coroner also found those head wounds, but concluded Rebecca's head could have struck something as she fell from the balcony. Her body was exhumed on television, on the Dr. Phil show disgustingly. It's terrible. But he can say it's foolish. What we say is it's justice. They know what happened to her, and she didn't kill herself. Rebecca's family petitions the California attorney general to reopen Rebecca's case, but in a crushing blow, their request is denied. To have it just rejected without comment was really, really difficult.


Anyone that's heard of this case, that's not a suicide. Let's get the answers. Let's get the answers. Coming up, we enlist this former NYPD Detective to take a new look at the Zahao case. It's a mystery, and I don't like mysteries. The results of his investigation when we return. The first ever criminal trial of a former President is underway in Manhattan. It's one of potentially four trials facing former President Trump as he makes his third bid for the White House. What do voters think about his culpability, and would a guilty verdict make a difference in the election? I'm Gaelen Druk, and every Monday and Thursday on the 538 Politics podcast, we break down the latest news from the campaign trail. We sort through the noise and zoom in on what really matters using data and research as we go. That's 538 Politics every Monday and Thursday, wherever you get your podcasts. There were things money can never buy. And sometimes it seems that those who have too many inworldly goods pay for it with terrible losses they could not foresee. Becky was gone. Seven years after the death of Rebecca Zahal, the mystery lingers. How could this beautiful young woman have committed suicide fully naked, with her feet bound and her hands tied behind her back?


The interest in this case remains years and years and years later. I hope somebody looks at this case again. It turns out someone is re-examining the case, 3,000 miles away from the sunny beaches in Coronado, here in the city that never sleeps, New York. His name is Hermann Weisberg, and he's a seasoned private investigator in New York City, with lots of high-profile cases under his belt. Weisberg is also a retired veteran NYPD Detective. We retain Weisberg to do a deep dive into the Rebecca Zahau case. He examined the case file of the San Diego Sheriff's Department, pouring over the detailed investigation. It's a mystery, and I don't like mysteries. And this one begs for a bunch of questions to be answered. Have you seen anything as perplexing as this one? Perplexing? No. Weisberg says one of his biggest concerns about the San Diego investigation was over their forensic analysis. Remember, one reason investigators concluded that Rebecca wasn't murdered was because only her fingerprints and DNA were found at the scene. I say science doesn't lie. That's why I'm so confident here. There's a lot of questions about what should have been found and what wasn't found there.


For instance, Weisberg Greg wonders how it could be possible there was absolutely no trace of Adam Shacknay's DNA and fingerprints, considering that he says he cut down the rope Rebecca was hanging from and administered CPR to her. I just put my mouth over her and I said, It's my brother's girlfriend. I'll do it. I did it. Is it odd to you that his DNA was not found on the rope, was not found on Rebecca's body? The fact that it's not there or inconclusive either means it wasn't collected properly or it wasn't analyzed properly or both. Weisberg is also troubled by how investigators concluded that Rebecca was able to hang herself with her hands tied behind her back. When you look at the way her hands and her feet were bound, what are your observations? This is a very intricate way to bind anyone. It looks to me like it takes some knowledge. But remember, the San Diego Sheriff showed how a woman was able to bind her hands behind her back. In a way, they said was similar to Rebecca. As best we can tell, there was nothing in particular expertise required. No particular expertise?


To find out, Weisberg met up with a rope tying expert.Nice to meet you.Thanks for coming down.I appreciate it. Very good. Greg Hantro, a New York Harbor Port captain and a former tugboat captain. Weisberg showed him the bindings on Rebecca's wrists. Could these be done by somebody like me who's never really had any experience with tying knots for these purposes? I don't think a layman that has never secured stuff before would come up with that lashing and not to tie it. But it doesn't have to be exclusively from a maritime background. Let's just take this. Throw a bite around one of your wrists or however you would do it. The whole purpose of lashing is to secure-Just like the woman in the Sheriff's video, Hantra was able to tie his hands behind his back using the same type of rope on Rebecca's wrist. But even he found the process to be awkward. Now I'm going to try to tighten the knot. I can't imagine this happening without a lot of practice. This is a very elaborate situation we have going on here. It's pretty elaborate. I would say that to a layperson, that's pretty out of the ordinary.


When you lay a lashing like that, there's experience behind that. But could Rebecca have had that rope-tying experience? After all, Jonas Shacknay says she often went out with him on his boat in Coronado. Rebecca, who was a really good athlete, would jump off the boat and tie it down. And certainly, she tied down our boat on dozens of occasions. You're laying in-But our rope-tying expert told us that the a group of bindings found on Rebecca wouldn't be used to tie down a boat. Weisberg also has questions about what the San Diego investigators say happened on Rebecca's balcony. Remember, they concluded that because only Rebecca's footprints were found on the balcony, she must have thrown herself off. To see just how likely that scenario could be, Weisberg brought me to this balcony, roughly the same dimensions as the one at Spreckles' mansion. So from this point forward, it was roughly 24 inches or 2 feet. The balcony, the rail, from the balcony-It's a little over three feet. It's right around the same within an inch. She would have hopped, hopped. It's extremely difficult to get yourself in that position while you're tied up, while you're wearing a gag.Naked.Naked. And your ankles are bound.


And pretty gruesome, too. You would have to throw yourself over headfirst, bound and gagged. But could an attacker have thrown Rebecca off the balcony without actually stepping on it and leaving incriminating footprints? To find out if that was possible, we brought in this dummy. Is this dummy similar dimension? Similar, a little bit heavier, but we erred to the side of heavier rather than lighter. It's a really good way of determining if this is possible for me to do this. All right, let's see if you can do it. So it is possible. It's not easy. It's not easy, but it's possible for you to have not stepped out there and positioned the body and thrown the body over. It shows that someone could have taken Rebecca's body, put it down, leaned it against that rail, and shoved it over. In the end, Weisberg says his evaluation raises serious questions about the San Diego Sheriff's Department's findings in the Rebecca Zahao case. Just looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes, does the evidence point to a suicide, in your view? I'm not Completely satisfied that this was a suicide. But there's also not enough evidence at this point to show that this was a homicide.


I think there's a lot of evidence that has to be reexamined. I think that we really need a fresh look at what wasn't done here. The San Diego Sheriff's Department declined our request for an interview, but told us they are always willing to look at any new evidence or information that comes to light. As the years pass, some continue to wonder if someone had make in Rebecca Zahal's life, who could have done it? And why? The theory that I heard the most was that this little boy had this horrible accident and that father's girlfriend was supposed to be looking after him. So the speculation was that this was a revenge killing for what happened to Max. Rebecca's family wanted justice and hired attorney Keith Greer. Several years ago, he filed a wrongful death suit for the family, claiming that Dina, her sister Nina, and Adam conspired together to kill Rebecca. I had an eyewitness who was very convincing, really strongly believed that he saw Dina there that night acting suspiciously. And they are now filing a wrongful death suit against three members. Remember the mysterious woman seen knocking at the mansion door that night? At first, she was identified by that eyewitness as Dina.


We've always alleged that. We have evidence we felt put Dina and Nina at the scene of the incident. They accused you of striking Rebecca in the head four times, helping to tie her up, gag her, and stage the suicide. I think it's a disgraceful abuse of the legal system. On what planet, in what universe would anyone come up with this scenario without any scintilla of evidence or facts? Nothing. Turns out that the woman who knocked on the door that night wasn't Dina at all. When this footage revealed that Dina was at the hospital with Max at the time of Rebecca's death, Greer dropped both sisters from the civil suit. I want to take this opportunity to express a real heartfelt apology to Dina and Nina. This has had an impact on our career and our reputations, and it's been a really horrible thing. Without Dina and Nina in his sights, Greer's case for the Zaha family is targeted at Adam Shacknay alone. Adam was there overnight, and nobody else was. You think Adam Shacknay killed your sister? Yes, I truly believe he did. It was almost like, Max is hurt and Rebecca is responsible. In court filings, Greer presented the Zaha family's version of what happened to Rebecca that night.


Walk me through what you believe happened to Rebecca that night? Well, first, there was a confrontation. He was in the house in the room with her. We'll never know exactly what said or how it escalated. Shortly after that, she was hit on the back of the head four times on the right upper part of her head. The next thing the killer did was tie her up. She was strangled before she went over the deck. Adam's attorney says none of it makes sense. Adam says he never left off the guest house that night, none of his DNA or fingerprints were found. But Greer claims Adam wiped the scene down. How could that be, Adam's team asks, since Rebecca's prints were found? I know he's a really smart guy, and he's a clever guy, and he put together this stage bizarre scheme to cover it all up. To be the subject of a lawsuit with a lawyer saying anything that comes into his head, he may as well be writing fiction stories. Adam's attorney agrees, saying Greer's claims are ever evolving and utterly baseless, and Adam had nothing to do with her death. So how does Greer hope to convince a jury?


He points to those knots binding Rebecca his hands and ankles and says he'll be able to link it to Adam's profession. That relevance of Adam Shacknay's profession is he's a tugboat captain in Tennessee, and these were perfect nautical knots. Adam admits he handles ropes but says he doesn't do much knot-tying on the river. And his defense expert says there's no such thing as an exclusively nautical knot. The knots are efficient, probably in the knot-tying world. Fairly simple but efficient knots. It shows somebody who understands knots. The evidence room unlocked in a mysterious death at the Spreckles mansion. Perhaps the most intriguing piece of evidence is that cryptic message painted on the door of Rebecca's room. She saved him. Can you save her? We I have here. Greer claims there are similarities between the painted block lettering and Adam's handwriting. Here's the one that I think is really shocking, and that's the M on the door with that long-This is the M on the door. These are Rebecca's M.Rebecca's. And all symmetrical, up, down, up, down. Except for one, we look at Adam over here, on the other hand. What is on every one of his Ms?


The last leg is a lengthy long. Here's the best example. A lengthy long leg. This is one. The San Diego Sheriff's Department never conducted analysis of the handwriting. I'm confident with the results of our investigation. They say the block lettering painted on a door can't be compared with handwriting on a page, an opinion shared by both Adam's expert and ours. In your experience before, have you ever connected the painting like this to naturally written words or letters? Not with any degree of certainty, no. Years ago, authorities cleared Adam of any involvement in Rebecca's death. And Dina, the woman the Zaha family once accused in this civil suit, says she's on Adam's side. I don't believe Adam Shacknay is a murderer. No, I don't. Greer just needs to convince nine out of twelve jurors to win his case. You think Adam Shacknay killed Rebecca Zahal by a preponderance of the evidence? Yes. That it's more likely than not that he did it? More likely than not. It's all we have to have is one feather of evidence more, and we prevail. Next, Adam in the hot seat. Will he testify? Right now, it's 50/50, in my opinion, as to how this is going to turn out.


Stay with us. The matter is Zahal versus Shacknight. Almost seven years after Rebecca Zahal's death, her family finally gets its date in court. What is the evidence that Adam Shacknight did this? It's a civil case, not criminal. Rebecca's family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages. And an answer, is Adam Shacknight responsible for Rebecca's death? She was already dead or dying because of manual strangulation. The battle lines are clear. Not one A single witness will give any testimony that Adam Shacknight did any of those things. But the outcome, far from certain. Did you hit Rebecca on the head? I never hit Rebecca on the head or anywhere else, for that matter. Testimony lasts nearly six weeks. It is pretty obvious she was murdered. For Mary Zahal, it's a day long overdue. This is all about finding the truth that my sister did not commit suicide. Finally, after They're liberating for three and a half hours. Did Adam Shacknight touch Rebecca Zahal before Rebecca Zahal's death? Was he intent to harm her? The answer is yes. Number two, did that touching caused the death of Rebecca Zahal? No, the answer is yes. I'm in shock. The Zahal family is awarded $5 million in damages.


But for them, this verdict is about more than money. We knew in our hearts that we were right. We hoped that we'd be able to prove that to a jury later down the road. Took four and a half, five years to do it. And today is the culmination of all that work. For Adam Shacknay, this case is far from over. Adam and his lawyers are going to pursue a very aggressive appeal, and Adam Shacknay will be exonerated, and once and for all, it will be behind him. The same can't be said for Dina Shacknay. She says the pain of her loss will never go away. I've never been as happy as I was. When I was with Max, he was my first child, he was my only biological child. We had such a special connection. I just miss having a life with him. About six miles to the southwest of the courthouse, the California sun still shines on the Spreckles' mansion, but Jonas Shacknay no longer owns that famous house. It's so eerie. It looks completely different now. But just knowing what happened in that house and those two horrific deaths, it's just it still gives me the chills to this day.


Same for Dina and Rebecca Zahau's family. And no matter what law enforcement or the courts say, it's almost as if they had written the end of Anne Rule's book. The tragic deaths of Max Shacknay and Rebecca Zahau may never be solved. They have become of the lore of Coronado and of the Spreckles mansion, and will never be forgotten. Perhaps one day, the truth will emerge and hearts can begin to heal. This is Deborah Roberts. In 2019, Adam Shacknay's insurance company reached a settlement with the family of Rebecca Zahal. After that, Rebecca's family petitioned the court to dismiss the civil case against Shacknay. The jury's original verdict and judgment were vacated. The settlement, however, was reached without Shacknay's knowledge. His lawyer says he continues to deny any responsibility for Rebecca's death and would have preferred to have had the chance to prove that in court. Meanwhile, in the wake of that trial, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department announced that due to new analysis of existing evidence presented in court, and after discussions with Rebecca's family, they'll take a fresh look at the case. Authorities haven't released any new updates on the investigation. That does it for this edition of the 2020 True Crime Vault.


Join us Friday evenings at 9:00 for all new broadcast episodes of 2020. Thanks for listening.