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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:


“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?

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Fred Williams Sept. 14, 2011 @ 7:43 p.m.

According to the "investigation", the victim wrote a cryptic message (in someone else's handwriting), bound her feet, then gagged herself and wrapped the shirt around her neck, put the rope around her neck, then tied her hands together, then got those tied hands behind her back, then somehow hoppped over a balcony in such a way that the pre-tied rope was neither too long nor too short...

There's no word of any Internet evidence, but we do know that former DA Paul Pfingst was on the scene immediately. Did he prevent the investigators from examining mobile devices and computers in and around the mansion to glean searches or GPS location? Was the ex-wife or brother ever even questioned by investigators?

Almost immediately, police publicly speculated it was a suicide. In fact, it seems that the focus of the "investigation" was to somehow prove it to be nothing other than a suicide...regardless of all the evidence pointing at something or somebody else.

Now, with word that the "investigators" did not even properly interview the victim's sister, but rather devoted themselves to selling the family the suicide story, it's very clear what happened.

There is no other reasonable conclusion but that this is a cover up. Whether due to the influence of those involved, or just a desire to avoid association an unseemly case while running for higher office...it's still a cover up.

This case cries out for independent investigation. DA Bonnie Dumanis should be asked about this case at every campaign appearance as she runs for mayor.

Also, the Attorney General of California, or perhaps the FBI should be asked to re-investigate not only the alleged suicide, but also the reason for such a blinkered and flawed "investigation". If the Sheriff claims this is based on "science", ask if he's familiar with the Congressionally mandated National Research Council report on how seriously flawed and unscientific forensic "science" truly is...

(See: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12589 )

There's a lot to be done yet, and a need to put pressure on the authorities who have the power to re-open this investigation -- this time without blinders.

If Mary is reading this, I urge her to contact her own representatives in Congress (don't bother with the San Diego delegation) to ask them to request the DOJ to investigate (or get advice on what can be done next, if that isn't the proper course).


Fred Williams former member San Diego Crime Commission


QueenMe Aug. 13, 2015 @ 11:51 a.m.

Never mind the ex-wife or brother being questioned. What about Ms.Zahau's "younger sister," who happened to be staying there for the summer and was witness to Max's "accident." Oh yeah, I forgot--she was whisked off and sent back home right afterward.


istana Sept. 15, 2011 @ 6:29 a.m.

I have been following this case from Switzerland. I really feel sad for the family, but I think that the conclusion of the police that Rebecca committed suicide is probable. From what I can gather from the interview with Mary, the relationship Rebecca had with Jonah doesn't seem to have been very serene, especially since the 2 older children plus one of the ex wives and her didn't get along. This puts a strain on every relationship. Then the terrible accident with Max. There must have been resentments and Rebecca's life within this family must have become very difficult. She had given up work as well, was divorced once already, so her future can not have looked very bright. Mary says that Rebecca and her were very close, and yet she doesn't seem to know a lot about her sister's life and Jonah who was going to be her brother-in-law. You never know what's going on in people's mind. May Rebecca rest in peace.


SurfPuppy619 Sept. 15, 2011 @ 10:08 p.m.

She had given up work as well, was divorced once already, so her future can not have looked very bright == Are you for real??? Do you know how many marriages end in divorce??? 60%.

Hardly a reason to claim the future was "not very bright"


tomjohnston Sept. 16, 2011 @ 1:56 a.m.

Are you for real??? Do you know how many marriages end in divorce??? 60%.

I guess my wife and I skew those stats just a tad bit. Earlier this year we celebrated our 35th anniversary.


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 29, 2011 @ 9:33 a.m.

35 is some accomplishment. Don has you beat I am pretty sure........


tomjohnston Nov. 29, 2011 @ 9:59 a.m.

Yeahb but Do Bauder is what, 75? My wife and I both recently celebrated pur 61st birthdays.


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 29, 2011 @ 2:27 p.m.

You know, I dont know how old Don is off the top of my head, I think he has mentioned 73????? Don't really know. But is is a long time he has been married, more power to him. To anyone that lasts longer than the 7 year average.


ateles2000 Sept. 15, 2011 @ 4:47 p.m.

As I see it the following six elements make this case if in fact a suicide a deviation from any known female suicide on record. 1. Woman committing suicide by hanging while naked? An Asian woman of moral upbringing with no known mental illness committing suicide naked. 2. Step-mother committing suicide over the loss of step-child? 3. A Woman with no prior history of suicide and no known mental illness binding hands and feet as part of suicide? 4. A Women with no known mental illness committing suicide with noose outside hair? 5. Women with no known mental illness gagging herself as part of hanging suicide? 6. Women with no known mental illness committing suicide using a combination of any the above?


Gail Powell Sept. 23, 2011 @ 7:30 p.m.

People who are wishing to aid the Zahau family in obtaining justice for Rebecca, please sign the online petition to reopen the case. All we concerned citizens can do is pressure the "public servants" to do the right thing and reopen this case. I am astounded that Sheriff Bill Gore and his band of merry men have so little regard for the intelligence of the people of San Diego, that they would dare to hoist that shoddy "suicide" designation on us! Shameful.

Thank you for your signature. http://www.change.org/petitions/california-attorney-general-open-an-independent-investigation-into-the-death-of-the-rebecca-zahau


jennjenn Oct. 2, 2011 @ 12:50 a.m.

Please sign this petition to help get Rebeccas's case get reopened. She was a very sweet and loving person. The manner of her death just doesn't add up.



hmezei Oct. 6, 2011 @ 3:34 a.m.

Hi have been whaching from the beginning....there's just too much to say.....I tptally agree with the person above Jennijenn...I mean ---Every one almost)...And "their dogs",,,,Can See ---this was Not a suicide...I have read many comments ---All,,@ especially women ...Know Right away ----No way this is [email protected] yes ---like one of the 1st commenters wrote --Shame on the Sherrrif, [email protected] the DA ....ms Bonni ---who's apparently running for [email protected] Yes ----wherver she goes ---Please Bring it Up....I would like to Her eyes Lowering Down ( for some reason...). In the beginning ---they Suspected Foul Play...then something [email protected] it feels like "somebody" was working hard on this....While Rebecca ---Laid there on the grass for some many hours...without any one covering Her....where was Adam to dot hat....Any one can say : Oh'....I went to get coffe"...when I saw Her..One can't Ignore ----the silence of these People..Adam has disappeared...Never been Interviewd, nor Jonah or Dina....There was No break In...If the thought of that had crossed her mind ----She would have called her sister right away!....No woman ---on the face of the earth or heaven -especially Asian ----would even think about doing it like that...This should be traced to the Top ---Why are they Not Interested....In Openning the Investigation ----Especially, that there are New and Very disturbing revelations....Like that a Man Heard a woman scream for Help from that House arownd 11 pm ?? the Police refuse to listen to Him ----If Jonah has "Friends in high Places"....then ?? This may have been Used to cover things...It certainly Looks Like an Act of revenge --from someone she [email protected] Footprints Not belonging to Police ---where fownd near Her Bad..+2 brashes + 2 knives.....I am Appalled by the story Mr. Black....Mr. Gore,...Mr. Jonathan ---have been "Pushing" this story of suicide....Rediculos.!!!....too many "Giveways" "Loopholes"..It's clear to Us..did somebody enter the house from the chimney ? or the veranda ? ----If No ---ther was One man there.......thanks..


hmezei Oct. 6, 2011 @ 3:54 a.m.

I'm in toal agreement with what "Fooforever" wrote...Very [email protected] very Good......Evey word he wrote ----,,I support [email protected] at the end He put ---"Shamefull"...for the sherrif Bill Gore ---I Totally Agree....It's like He --- the sherrif ---have "sold Joseff for a Piece of cloth"....( story in the Bible..) If Hes sherrif ----Show it then ----Open the Investigation according with the New Fowndings.....there are Severall Very Important Findings.....If Money was at "Play" here -----we want an Investigation....that will Lead to the sorce of It.......In the Meantime ----No one has been able to Interview Jonah or [email protected] They are "Laying Low"....would anyone know as to why ?? People with Nothing to hide ---are not afraid of an Interview..JOnah said right away that he wants his life to contine " Buisness as Usuall"....But ----I don't think So.....


hmezei Oct. 23, 2011 @ 2:50 a.m.

Sorry ---I first want to Acknowlege the Wonderfull article By Mr. Fred Williams....( meant to do so earlier..)It's exactly as Many of Us see the [email protected] I'm glad ---that He's So Helpfull caring Person from the SD crime commition. I do Hope that Mary @ Ms. Ann Bremner pursue This advice --( hoping they read It..) Becouse so far ( oct 23rd ) I'm not aware of any change regarding the Sheriff @ "His marry Band"[email protected] I don't Understand ----Why on earth ---any of the Higher offices..aren't Steppping In....I do think / Feel @ Hope ---that this "thing" will get Uncovered....Who Is Above the Gore"..Kamla ( who hasn't stepped In yet)...So..Yes ---Turn to the congress Men --excellent Idea.. Something ---All of It ---Does Not make sense at All......


Fred Williams Oct. 23, 2011 @ 4:13 a.m.

hmezei, I'm forced to admit that for all the sound and fury, nothing has happened. The California Attorney General opted not to review the case, meaning it's going to stand as is unless a much higher power intervenes...

It stinks. It really, really stinks.

As an old song goes, "Justice isn't blind, it just looks the other way".


hmezei Oct. 28, 2011 @ 11:19 p.m.

Dear Fred Williams....thank YOu....You are very [email protected] we are Gratefull for that...I woder if that is Ms. Kamla...I'm also sorry to Notice ---that She doesn't show Interest In Helping This Important case...Why are People ---who are Not Interested to Help @ are Inni a Position to Help ---don't show Interest...that Includs Ms. Bonni D. This Is a reflection on them....I Just heard ---that D. Phill....wil be dealing with this case ----I was very Happy to hear this...This Is a step in the right [email protected] Yes, like You said----This Needs to Go...as High as Possible ----where there's No chance of Bribe....I Must say ----It's a shame...On Whoever Has alllowed This to go that way...( astray...) with Love...


Twister Oct. 30, 2011 @ 2:28 p.m.

Bill Bass is an honest, highly competent individual who has exposed a lot of fraud in medical examiners and coroners. It is retired but still active. If asked, he would probably comment or assist.



Nightrider Nov. 29, 2011 @ 1:44 a.m.

What can we expect? K Harris was a do-nothing district attorney against criminals (even one that killed a police officer) in San Francisco. And apparently Bonnie D is running for some kind of office so she doesn't want to rock the boat. Yes, appeal to U.S. congressmen in CA and MO to get to DOJ to look into this. An Asian woman, such as Rebecca, would not kill herself, and would certainly not kill herself in such a way, taking her own clothes off and hanging herself on a building balcony for all to see and photograph.


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