Jonah Shacknai did praise Rebecca, along with his son. “Rebecca too was a wonderful and unique person who will always have a special place in my heart.” But this statement, issued after the press conference at which Sheriff Bill Gore ruled Rebecca’s death a suicide, was pretty much it.
“Yup. He didn’t say much to us either. And yes, that surprised me. For somebody that he was going to marry, it really surprised me that he didn’t even have one good thing to say about my sister. Though she said marriage was not being discussed at this point.”
What makes Mary so sure Becky didn’t commit suicide?
“All of it. All of it doesn’t fit. The conversation she and I had the day before [she died], none of it adds up. She had two detailed plans for the next day: to take things for Jonah [to the hospital where he was watching over Max, who had been critically injured falling down a stairwell at the mansion], to fix something for him to eat. She told me to tell our mom that she would call her on her way to the hospital in the morning. That she was going to text me throughout the day. I mean, that’s somebody who’s planning to kill herself?”
Could she have been depressed by the fact that Max was mortally injured while he was at home with her?
“She did not feel responsible. She said it was a horrible accident. She said she doesn’t know for sure what happened. She just remembered that he was playing in the hallway, and she told me that she was in the bathroom, and she heard this loud crash. And so she came out running, and she said she found Max on the floor, unconscious.”
Again, after Max was injured, her shaky status within the family was in evidence.
“She went to the hospital, but I don’t think that she was allowed to actually see Max,” says Mary.
And Becky’s death? She died trussed up in hand- and foot-binding rope but otherwise nude, in a death that Sheriff Bill Gore declared “suicide,” meaning she tied herself up and staged a suicide spectacular off the rear balcony of the mansion.
“No,” says Mary. “No way. It’s just not something that she would do. We were raised in modesty. Yes, she dressed herself well, but she was not one who’s going to go out there and say, ‘Hey! Look at me!’ to the whole world.”
Then there’s the bizarre message daubed in black paint on the bedroom door:
“SHE SAVED HIM / CAN HE SAVE HER?”
“I have no clue [what that’s about],” Mary says. “I just know that’s not my sister. And my sister’s very artistic, and if she has a message for the world, it wouldn’t be those two lines. And it wasn’t my sister’s handwriting either. They are trying to say that my sister was suicidal because she heard this news that Max was dying, or brain-dead. Obviously she didn’t save him. But I don’t know what that message means.”
But surely someone living has to know what that message means. The person it was addressed to. Who does she think wrote it?
“I don’t know. It would have to be whoever was involved. We don’t know if it’s one or two persons. We don’t know.”
It takes a moment to absorb the intriguing possibility. Two persons? After all, there were two paint brushes and two knives left at the scene.
“The police have been in contact only one time [with us] after we had called them dozens of times,” says Mary. “That’s the other thing. We never got an official death notification from them. That one call from Jonah [to husband Doug] was what we had. But the police did call us after my husband had contacted them several times. In the entire investigation they talked to me only once, to ask me a few questions but basically to convince me that it was a suicide. It bothers me. Why isn’t our family asked about who Becky was? They say the family was very reachable…no. I had a full conversation with them only once. And then the other time was for them to come and say, ‘Well, this is what our conclusion is.’ When the sheriff’s lead detective on the case called, she said that there were ‘no signs of foul play, so we’re concluding it’s a suicide.’ Basically, they didn’t have answers to questions we asked. Like, if there were internet sources on her computer to support what she did, because you are trying to convince me that my sister came up with this elaborate [suicide] plan in less than two hours? Because they said the time of death was around 3:00 a.m. possibly, and supposedly the message she got from Jonah saying Max was brain-dead was at about one o’clock in the morning.
“So supposedly in two hours she was able to work out what to do and how to do it and find the equipment and make it look like a murder. They essentially said, ‘It may look like a homicide, but it’s not. We came to the conclusion that it’s a suicide.’
“Our goal at this point is to have the case reopened and actively investigated. We are not here to point any fingers, but we definitely know there were more than one too many questions that need to be answered. And so it has to be relooked at. I read about the [residue] of masking tape on her legs, the hemorrhages on her head. [The sheriff’s lead detective on the case] didn’t tell us any of that. They omitted that part of it. But I specifically asked over and over, ‘Were there signs of trauma? Signs of struggle?’ And they kept saying, ‘No, there are no signs of foul play, there are no signs of struggle.’”
But why persist, when four independent law enforcement bodies have arrived at the same conclusion: suicide?