Family of millionaire's girlfriend Rebecca Zahau dispute suicide finding on Dr. Phil
(CBS/KFMB/AP) SAN DIEGO - The family of Rebecca Zahau, the woman whose naked body was found hanged at a San Diego-area mansion, went on national television Tuesday to release the results of her second autopsy, challenging the finding that Zahau committed sujcide.
Zahau was found in July at the Coronado mansion owned by her millionaire boyfriend, Arizona pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai, two days after his 6-year-old son suffered a fatal fall under her care.
Although the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the medical examiner, and the Coronado Police Department have ruled the death a suicide, the family said on the "Dr. Phil" show that they're not satisfied by this answer.
"I feel like my sister hasn't rested yet because I don't have an answer for her, as far as what happened to her," Rebecca's sister Mary Zahau-Loehner told the host, Dr. Phil McGraw, reports CBS affiliate KFMB.
Zahau's body was exhumed from a Missouri cemetery and flown to Pittsburgh for the second autopsy, which was performed by respected forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who was hired by Zahau's family.
According to KFMB, Dr. Wecht appeared via satellite on the TV show and reported, "I lean very strongly toward it being a homicide - something involving foul play - and lean very strongly against it being a suicide."
Dr. Wecht said Zahau's neck was not broken and he believes it would have been had she committed suicide, given the nine-foot drop off the balcony described in her initial autopsy report, reports KFMB.
During his autopsy, Dr. Wecht also examined four head injuries that did not break the skin but caused bleeding underneath Zahau's scalp.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner reportedly described those head injures as "relatively minor" and said in a September statement that "she may have struck her head on the balcony on the way down."
Dr. Wecht disagreed with this theory, KFMB reports.
"You have to have blunt force trauma. You have to have the head impacting against some object four times; or be struck by something four times in a round, blunt force nature," said Dr. Wecht.
"I would like to hear from them how you get four separate impacts to the top of the head in a vertical hanging," Wecht continued. "And, the significance of that is that those kinds of impacts might lead to a concussion and could lead to temporary unconsciousness."
San Diego's police chief, however, says results of the second autopsy won't convince him to reopen the case.
Police Chief Bill Gore said in a written statement Tuesday the autopsy provided no new information and he says guests on the two-part show altered, misrepresented and omitted facts.
Gore's statement calls the show "nothing more than sensationalism at its lowest point" which caused the family more suffering.
Gore said he'd be glad to meet with family members to view information pertinent to the investigation "rather than hear their results on television, presented as entertainment."
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