The family of the late Rebecca Zahau, who resides in St. Joseph, filed suit in federal court this week alleging that the woman did not commit suicide in 2011, but was in fact murdered.
Zahau was discovered hanging by her neck at the mansion home of her boyfriend, Medicis Pharmaceuticals CEO Jonah Shacknai. She died two days after Shacknai's six-year-old son, Max, was discovered mortally injured on the stone floor below a balcony. He was in Zahau's care at the time of his fall. She had reportedly stated she was in the bathroom when Max tumbled over the railing. Max's death was ruled an accident; Zahau's, a suicide.
Ever since the deaths in July 2011, the Zahau family maintained Rebecca was murdered in retaliation for Max's accident. Now, they've named the people they believe are responsible in the lawsuit.
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The state of Zahau's body immediately raised suspicions. She was naked, bound at the hands and feet, and had a t-shirt wrapped around her neck and stuffed into her mouth. She was hanging from her neck from an outdoor balcony. Someone allegedly painted the phrase "she saved him, can you save her" on the door leading to the balcony, which some interpret as a suicide note. Zahau is buried in a cemetery in St. Joseph.
The suit was filed by Zahau's mother Pari and sister Mary, and on behalf of Zahau's father Robert who died just over a week ago. The named defendants are Max's mother Dina Shacknai, her sister, Nina Romano, and Max's paternal uncle, Adam Shacknai. Dina and Nina had flown to California to visit Max in the hospital and were staying at a home near the mansion; Adam was staying in the mansion's guesthouse and was the first to find Zahau. Jonah Shacknai, Zahau's boyfriend, stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near Max's hospital that night and is not named in the suit.
The lawsuit also lists up to 50 unknown people who may have been involved in Zahau's death. The complaint says that either the defendants themselves threatened and killed Zahau, or that they knew someone was going to and did not save her.
"To the extent that any individual Defendant did not directly participate in the acts causing Rebecca's death, their knowledge of and/or participation in the scheme to cause harm to Rebecca created a duty to warn Rebecca or take reasonable effort to prevent the other Defendants from executing the plan, which they failed to do so," the suit reads.
Continue for the full complaint and response from Dina Shacknai, Max's mother.