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Who Were Rebecca Zahau And Max Shacknai? How Did They Die?

The names Rebecca Zahau and Max Shacknai made headlines in 2011, for some unpleasant news. The 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau was found dead at a mansion owned by her millionaire boyfriend. Rebecca Zahau was the girlfriend of Jonah Shacknai, the CEO of a wealthy pharmaceutical company named Medicis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Jonah Shacknai has also served as the chief aide to the US House of Representatives committee for health policy. 

Max Shacknai was the son of Jonah Shacknai, who suffered a fatal accident and passed away days after the accident due to his injuries. Being the girlfriend and son of a wealthy millionaire and due to the events that followed the deaths, the news gathered international attention. Here is everything you need to know about the death and aftermath of the deaths of Rebecca Zahau and Max Shacknai. 

Who Was Max Shacknai And How Did He Die?

Max Shacknai was the son of millionaire Jonah Shacknai and his second wife Dina Romano. Their son Max Shacknai was only six years old at the time of his death. The event that led to the death of Max Shacknai took place on July 11, 2022. The event took place at the Spreckles Mansion, where the couple resided, in Coronado, California.

Who Was Max Shacknai And How Did He Die?

According to the available reports, Max fell over the second-floor banister, and that too, face-first on the day. Rebecca, the mother of Max and her sister Xena was present in the mansion during the accident. Rebecca was in the bathroom during the time of his accident and it was her sister Xena who contacted 9-1-1 for assistance. 

During the fall, Max severely damaged his spinal cord and facial bones. As a result of the spinal cord injury, Max suffered breathing difficulties and also had irregularities in his heart rate. Max was reported to be not breathing and unresponsive after the accident.

He was rushed to the Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego and was given the needed medical attention. But unfortunately, oxygen deprivation led to brain damage in Max and he died on July 16, 2011. 

As per the police reports, the death of Max was ruled out to be an accident. Things started to get suspicious after a trauma doctor who examined Max revealed that the brain swelling and the cardiac arrest suffered by Max were not consistent with the injuries that he suffered from the fall. He also put forward a suggestion that stated that Max may have been suffocated before his fall. 

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Who was Rebecca Zahau And How Did She Die?

Rebecca Zahau was the girlfriend of millionaire Jonh Shacknai. She was a woman of Burmese origin and was an immigrant. Rebecca was born on March 15, 1979, in Falam, which is a town in the northwestern area of Myanmar. Before finally settling in the US, Rebecca lived in Nepal and then Germany. She used to work as an ophthalmic technician until December 2010.

Rebecca got married to Neil Nalepa in 2002. Neil was a nursing student who was from Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 36 years old at the time of their marriage. Rebecca and Neil eventually got divorced in 2011. 

Who was Rebecca Zahau and How did she die?

Rebecca started dating Jonah Shacknai in 2008, while she was still married to Neil Nalepa. His boyfriend Jonah also had a history of previous relationships. Jonah was married twice before he started dating Rebecca. Jonah got married to Kimberly James and then after that, he got married to Dina Romano, who was the mother of Max Shacknai, who passed away on July 16, 2011. 

Rebecca Zahau was also found dead at the Spreckels Mansion, the same place where Max Shacknai also met with an accident, on July 13, 2011. According to the available reports, Rebecca Zahau left for the airport on July 12, 2022, to drop off her sister Xena who was staying with her.

She then picked up Adam Schaknai, who was the brother of her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai, who just flew in from Memphis, Tennessee. After their dinner with a friend, Adam and Rebecca returned to the mansion where Johan went to see Dino, the mother of Max. 

On the next day, Adam Shacknai was the first person to spot the dead body of Rebecca Zahau, which was hanging naked from a balcony in the Mansion. Both her hand and ankles were seen tied by ropes. Adam called 9-1-1 and also alerted his brother, Jonah, through a text message, about the situation. He also cut the rope and brought down the body before the police arrived.

Speculations about the death of Rebecca started to spread as the news went out. The police initiated forensic and toxicology examinations but they could not even trace a single foreign DNA at the scene, which eventually led to the conclusion that the death of Rebecca Zahau was suicide. 

Further Investigation And Aftermath

The autopsy reports of Rebecca Zahau suggested that she had suffered severe head trauma in four different instances. The incident was connected o the chance of bumping her head onto the railing or wall, but the chance of it occurring four times seemed unlikely. A second autopsy was conducted by Dr. Cyril Wecht, considering the request of Rebecca’s family members. 

Rebecca Zahau And Max Shacknai Death

The second autopsy brought out results that stated that the injuries which were seen on Rebecca’s neck were the result of manual strangulation. The doctor expressed his doubts about the death being a homicide. Her family also expressed their doubt as to why her hands and legs of Rebecca were tied at the time of her death.

Another important piece of evidence that was found at the crime scene was a message which was allegedly written by Rebecca before her death. The police did not reveal the message but sources say that the message which was written on a door read “She saved him, can he save her.” The note was not accepted by her family who claimed that it was not the handwriting of Zahau. Her former husband Nalepa also stated that the note did not seem like something that Rebecca would write. 

The Final Judgement

The death of both Rebecca Zahau and Max Shacknai was first dismissed by the police stating that there was no foul play involved in their death and that Rebecca’s death was a suicide and Max’s death was clearly an accident.

But the family of Rebecca believed that Adam Shacknai, the brother of Jonah Shacknai was responsible for the death of their daughter. Her family filed a $ 10 million wrongful death suit against Adam Shacknai. He was eventually found responsible for the death of Rebecca Zahau by the jury. The family of Rebecca Zahau received $5 million for the loss of love and companionship.

They also received an additional $167,000 as financial support that Rebeccaould has provided her mother and siblings. 

Adam Shacknai, in 2019, filed an appeal about the case pointing to procedural eros and juror misconduct. But before the final verdict of the appeal, the family of Zahau and Adm Shacknai reached a settlement of $600,000 which dismissed the case and also vacated the original $5 million judgment. 

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