Sheriff’s Department to review Zahau death following civil trial decision
The Sheriff’s Department has agreed to review the death of Rebecca Zahau following a civil case verdict that contradicted the department’s initial finding that she committed suicide at her boyfriend Coronado mansion.
Sheriff Bill Gore issued a statement Monday saying that while no new evidence was presented in the trial, there was new analysis of existing evidence.
According to the statement, the decision came after “a productive conversation” with the Zahau family’s attorney, C. Keith Greer.
“We’re very excited,” Greer said Monday night. “I had a great discussion with Sheriff Gore. He was very professional, very accommodating. He seemed genuinely interested in doing the right thing.”
On April 4, nine out of 12 jurors in the highly watched wrongful death case decided that Zahau, 32, didn’t die by suicide in July 2011, as county authorities had said. Instead, the Superior Court jury determined that Adam Shacknai, 54, the brother of Zahau’s boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, was legally responsible for her death.
Adam Shacknai has denied any responsibility in her death, and on Monday issued a statement saying he welcomed the review.
“As I have maintained from the beginning, I was in no way involved with Rebecca’s death,” he wrote.
“I will be pleased to assist the investigation in any way requested, as I have all along,” he concluded.
Zahau’s body was found hanging from a balcony with her hands bound behind her at a Coronado mansion owned by Jonah Shacknai.
On the day the jury verdict was announced, the Sheriff’s Department issued a statement saying it stood behind the Medical Examiner’s Office finding, but was open to reviewing any new evidence that could impact its conclusions.
The statement released Monday doesn’t retract the earlier statement about the Medical Examiner’s Office finding or say that the case is being reopened. Rather, it said evidence will be reviewed in light of how it was analyzed in court.
“In the spirit of transparency and open-mindedness, we have agreed to undertake a fresh review of the case, by investigators who have had no prior involvement with the case, to evaluate the new information,” the statement read.
The review is expected to take at least 90 days, and findings will be discussed with Greer at its conclusion, the statement read.
“I think it’s a first step in the right direction,” Greer said, adding that he believes the next step will be to fully reopen the case, which he had said was the goal of the lawsuit.
The jury found that Adam Shacknai must pay Zahau’s family $5 million for the loss of Zahau’s love and companionship, plus $167,000 for the loss of financial support she would have provided her mother and siblings.
Sheriff’s Cmdr. Dave Myers, who is running for sheriff against Gore, earlier had said he would reopen the case if elected.
Myers criticized Gore for not revisiting the case Monday night.
“He’s had the evidence for seven years,” he said. “That’s not changed. He’s had the family asking him for seven years to look at it. But it took a civil trial, nine jurors and Dave Myers running for sheriff.”
Gore did not respond to a request to respond to Myers on Monday night.
Greer said Zahau’s sister, Mary Zahau-Loehner, and Zahau-Loehner’s husband, Doug Loehner, were “cautiously optimistic” that the sheriff’s decision to review evidence would lead to reopening the case.
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