SAN DIEGO – The California attorney general denied a wealthy pharmaceutical executive's request to review a finding that his girlfriend killed herself by binding her wrists and ankles and hanging herself naked from a balcony at his historic mansion, according to a letter released Thursday.
The office of Attorney General Kamala Harris said it reviews cases for limited reasons, including allegations of gross misconduct by investigators, a clear conflict of interest or if a local law enforcement agency lacks resources or requests help.
Jonah Shacknai asked for a review of a San Diego County Sheriff's Department finding that his 32-year-old girlfriend Rebecca Zahau killed herself two days after his 6-year-old son suffered a fatal fall at his waterfront mansion in Coronado, a wealthy San Diego suburb.
Shacknai, 54, wrote the attorney general Monday that he had no reason to doubt the finding but that a review might put to rest questions raised by Zahau's family and others. He said Thursday that he accepted Harris' decision.
"If at any time there is new substantive evidence bearing on this case, it should be presented, not in tabloid form to fuel rumor and innuendo, but rather to appropriate law enforcement authorities who may determine whether further investigation is warranted," Shacknai said in a statement.
Sheriff Bill Gore said this week that he understood and supported Shacknai's request and would cooperate if the attorney general launched a review. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Zahau's family is seeking an independent investigation. Their attorney, Anne Bremner, said Wednesday that a neighbor heard a woman scream at the home the night before the body was found and that numerous experts have challenged the suicide ruling.
Bremner is also calling attention to an autopsy report revelation that Shacknai's brother, Adam, found Zahau's body with a shirt stuffed in her mouth. The San Diego County coroner's office said it was unclear why the cloth was there but people can put material in their mouths before hanging themselves.
Dane Gillette, chief assistant attorney general, denied the request in a letter to Shacknai that he signed on behalf of Harris. The letter was dated Wednesday.
Additional search warrants unsealed Thursday showed that investigators had seized Rady Children's Hospital surveillance recordings in an attempt to verify that Shacknai was at the hospital -- where his son was being treated -- before Zahau's body was found.
Shacknai is founder and chief executive of Medicis Pharmaceuticals Corp., a company based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that makes acne and facial wrinkle treatments.
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