Police will not reopen their investigation into the death of a 6-year-old boy at his father’s Coronado vacation estate 14 months ago — a fatality officially deemed an accident — despite purported evidence that the boy was the victim of homicide, authorities announced today.
Detectives and medical examiner’s personnel concluded a year ago that Max Shacknai, son of a multimillionaire Arizona pharmaceuticals executive, was mortally injured in an unintended fall down a stairwell at the historic sea-front mansion on July 11, 2011.
The child died in a San Diego hospital five days later.
Skeptical about the ruling, Max’s mother, Dina Shacknai, sought the opinions of several outside analysts, Robert Bove Jr., an expert in the biomechanics of injury, and forensic pathologist Judy Melinek.
The consultants decided that the nature of the child’s wounds was inconsistent with the accident scenario and instead pointed to an assault by an unknown party. Shacknai presented those findings to the Coronado Police Department last month in hopes of getting the case reopened.
The agency spent weeks reviewing the materials before determining that they “did not provide any new evidence” or justification to change the manner-of-death ruling, police announced in a prepared statement. The department, however, “remains committed to review any new evidence brought forward in this case.”
When Max suffered the fatal injuries at the 104-year-old Spreckels Mansion, he was under the care of his father’s girlfriend, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau of Arizona.
Two days later, Zahau’s nude body was found was found hanging by the neck from a balcony railing at the 27-room manor owned by Jonah Shacknai.
Though her hands and feet were bound, investigators ultimately ruled that she had killed herself, possibly out of guilt over what had happened to the boy.
Like Dina Shacknai, Zahau’s family has consistently disputed the official ruling on their relative’s manner of death, also arguing that she was slain by an unknown killer or killers.