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Nancy Grace

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Search Warrants Reveal New Details In Shacknai Mansion Death

According to a search warrant affidavit, polygraph test results for the brother of pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai who found his girlfriend’s body after her alleged suicide in July were inconclusive.

The newly-unsealed affidavit states that the polygrapher could not draw conclusions from Adam Shacknai’s test results, but he felt Adam was being truthful.

Search warrants were filed for cell phone records for calls made and received by two phones between July 11, when Jonah’s son Max was injured in a fall at his mansion, and July 13, when girlfriend Rebecca Zahau’s nude, bound body was found hanging from a balcony. Max died days later from his injuries.

According to the affidavit, Jonah Shacknai learned of Zahau’s death via a text message from Adam stating that she had hung herself. Adam was the only other person known to have been in the Coronado mansion when she died.

Adam told police he found Zahau hanging from the balcony over the rear courtyard and called 911 around 6:48 am on July 13. He cut her down and, as instructed by a 911 dispatcher, removed a piece of blue cloth from her mouth. Her time of death was later estimated to be around 3:00 am.

Another search warrant affidavit filed on July 13 by Detective Brian Patterson indicates that authorities initially suspected homicide in Zahau’s death.

“I believe that based on the fact that the Asian female had her hands and legs bound and was found in the condition that she was found by Adam Shacknai that she was a victim of a homicide,” Patterson wrote.

Medical examiners ultimately determined that Zahau’s death was a suicide, a conclusion that her family has contested. They have called for the investigation to be re-opened, which the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is willing to do only if new evidence is uncovered.

Earlier this week, Jonah Shacknai sent a letter to the California Attorney General’s Office asking them to investigate the case in order to bring “some clarity, dignity, and ultimately closure” to the events at his home. However, Shacknai emphasized that he did not have any reason to doubt the official finding of suicide for Zahau.

In explaining why he wanted the attorney general’s office to evaluate the investigation by local authorities, Shacknai cited “unrelenting and often vicious speculation and innuendo in certain media outlets” that continue to cause pain for his family.

Zahau family attorney Anne Bremner said in an email to the attorney general’s office Wednesday that her family wants “a full independent INVESTIGATION…with full input from us, our investigators and our experts” rather than just the review of the case that Jonah Shacknai’s letter had requested. Bremner wrote that the family had retained “nearly ten unimpeachable experts who with ample bases challenge the finding of suicide.”

Meanwhile, CNN affiliate KFMB reported Thursday that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has begun a new forensic examination of Zahau’s cell phone, using software to copy and save all of the data contained on the device. Lt. Larry Nesbit told the station that this could lead to a re-opening of the investigation if any relevant information is found.

Authorities have said they believe Zahau received a voicemail message from Shacknai informing her that Max would not survive a couple of hours before she died, but KFMB reported that detectives did not try to recover that deleted message. Nesbit said Shacknai told investigators that he left the message.

Nesbit told KFMB that Zahau’s phone was relatively new and they were initially unable to find software to properly copy its data. He suggested that it may not be possible to retrieve the deleted message at this point, but the phone does contain text messages, a call history and journal entries.

According to KFMB, Bremner said her private investigation has uncovered new witnesses who may have information about the night Zahau died, including one who claimed to have heard a woman cry for help from the mansion around 11:30 pm on July 12 and another who saw an unidentified woman outside the house about an hour before that. The sheriff’s office has not confirmed these accounts.

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