Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2 Deaths in 2 Days of Billionaire's Girlfriend & Son on Coronado Island Baffle Police

A real mystery–and a true tragedy–is unfolding on Coronado Island, a wealthy seaside enclave across the bay from San Diego. And it's gripped this typically quiet tourist town.

On July 13, Rebecca Zaha's nude body was found hanging from a rope tied to a second-floor balcony at the Spreckels 27-room mansion on Ocean Boulevard. Her hands were tied behind her back, her feet bound with orange electrical cord.

At first, suicide was suspected. But that's akin. at least in the 1970s and '80s, to a Las Vegas coroner ruling a known mob hit a suicide when the person was shot twice in the back of the head.

A week after Rebecca's death, police are now saying violence was evident in her death, but the manner–homicide or suicide–had not yet been decided. Results of an autopsy have been sealed, police said.

This typically quiet town of 27,000 residents has seen just two murders in the last decade. Coronado police don't have a homicide unit and asked the San Diego County Sheriff's Department to help with its investigation. "A case like this," Coronado mayor Casey Tanaka told The San Diego Union-Tribune, "would be unusual anywhere."

Responding to reporter's questions about the circumstances under which Rebecca was found, Sheriff's Sgt. Roy Frank said, "Sometimes suicide can look very similar to homicide or vice versa."

Rebecca's death wasn't the first that week. Two days earlier, while she was babysitting her billionaire boyfriend Jonah Shacknai's 6-year-old son Max, the boy fell down a flight of stairs in the mansion built in 1908 and once owned by John D. Spreckels, a surgar baron, owner of the historic Hotel del Coronado and onetime owner of the San Diego Union and San Diego Evening-Tribune. Max was not breathing and did not have a pulse when paramedics arrived. He was in a coma until he died five days later. Police has said there's no evidence thus far tat the two deaths were connected. At the time of Rebecca's death, Max was still alive, on life support at Rady's Children's Hospital until he passed away over the weekend.

Zaha,  32, also known by her married name Rebecca Nalepa, had for two years dated 54-year-old Shacknai, the CEO and founder of an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company, and had left her job in Phoenix last December, moving into the mansion so she could spend more time with Shacknai's three children.

The body of the former ophthalmic technician was discovered by Shacknai's brother Adam, who was staying in a guest house on the property. He cut the rope from which she was hanging, then called police, according to authorities.

The case is unfolding as I write this. Stay turned for more about these bizarre but tragic deaths.


camille said...

I wonder if she feels bad about the little boy falling down the stairs? Or perhaps someone else blamed her for the fall and killed her? I don't believe someone could hang themselves with their feet and hands bound, could they? Why would you bind your own hands and feet and then kill yourself? Maybe she was afraid she would lose her nerve if she didn't tie herself up? Thank you for posting about this and I look forward to updates.

cheryl said...

Camille, she was also naked. And as far as we know, there was no suicide note.

This one is a real head scratcher.

DrGina said...

Such a strange story. I happened to be in the area the morning her body was found. Strange to walk by such a lovely home in such a peaceful location and realize horrible violence occurred there. I hope authorities can determine what really happened. Glad to see you reporting on the case, Cathy.

Eye-of -the-storm said...

With the verdict of Casey's trial just shockingly in 2 messages were delivered to the people.
You can do a domestic killing to get rid of anyone as long as you can include the chance an accident was the cause. Those who know you best don't even need to belioeve your stories, juries will. Children are the easiest to exterminate quickly.
The other message was that if you want justice for a family member who was a victim, forget the legal system and deal with it yourself, especially if of your own domestic setting.
The same sloppy rules apply to the one applying retribution if the option of an accident or suicide is included. Best one with the younger gold digger or her aged Lothario is the sex game set up including a spot of asphysiation gone wrong - too embaressing and dirty to dwell on and sparing the family further anguish excuse by investigators and coroners courts. That's because it's now known to be a waste of time getting evidence to serve justice through the legal and judical processes. This would especially be the case if seems the latest victim got the retribution deserved.
It will be important to turn a blind eye whenever Casey copy cats get dealt with by citizen retribution. The is the most effective detterent for the Casey copy cat sociopaths.

camille said...

I didn't realize she was naked. I doubt she would have wanted to be found that way. Definitely not a suicide. Maybe the dad was mad because he felt she caused his son's accident and he killed her. Such a strange story. I read on another website that the billionare has reunited with his ex, the mother of his dead son, in their grief. It will be interesting to find out if the girlfriend was pregnant when she died.

Jolie said...

There have been accusations of abuse by Mr. Millionaire in his relationship with the recently deceased girlfriend and with his second wife Dinah.

Jonah Shacknai was not present at the time of her death, but he could easily have afforded and arranged to have someone kill her for him.

Jolie said...

Uh oh. Jonah Shacknai has just hired a high-level PR firm after the deaths of his son and girlfriend.

Not a good sign.

Kate and Gerry McCann used high profile PR persons in the aftermath of their young daughter Madeleine's disappearance in Portugal. Clarence Mitchell spent a great deal of time spinning (lying) for the couple and pointing fingers at everyone else.

camille said...

Thanks for the updates, Jolie!

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, Camille. :)


Anonymous said...