Zahau Nalepa's sister has been emphatic about the death of Rebecca, whose nude body was found hanging at Shacknai's Coronado, Calif., mansion, with her hands and feet tied. The Zahau family said the suicide theory is "ridiculous," "doesn't pass the smell test," and "a big lie." Rebecca's sister, Mary Zahau-Loehner, told NBC, "My sister did not commit suicide ... She was murdered."
The San Diego Sheriff's Department said today there was a ambiguous note message found painted on a door at the scene that might be a suicide letter, that Zahau routinely slept in the nude and had been distraught because she was in the bathroom when Shacknai's 6-year-old son Max died after a "planking" stunt went wrong (according to the Zahau family lawyer), and that there were no signs of a struggle.
The family disputes that the message was in Rebecca's handwriting and says Rebecca was upbeat and planning things for the next day.
The PR problem for Shacknai and Medicis is that the Zahau family isn't alone in believing Rebecca's death was not a suicide. Under every story published on the deaths, comments boards fill up with notes from readers expressing disbelief that Zahau killed herself in such a bizarre manner.
Updated Timeline of Deaths at Jonah Shacknai's Coronado Mansion:
- May 3: Coronado city council meets to approve architectural revisions to the historic house that have angered Shacknai's neighbors.
- June 10: Shacknai moves 123,222 stock options in MRX into an irrevocable trust for his children.
- June 24: Shacknai signs a renewed employment agreement featuring generous childcare terms.
- July 6: Shacknai nets $1.4 million exercising stock options.
- Prior to July 9: Jonah Shacknai reportedly planned to propose to Rebecca Zahau Nalepa
- Saturday/Sunday July 9 and 10: Zahau plans a party at the Shacknai house.
- Monday, July 11, morning: Jonah Shacknai's son, 6-year-old Max, falls down the stairs. Police say it is an accident. Max is found not breathing and without a pulse. He is taken to hospital where he is believed to be in a coma. Nalepa (who changed back to her maiden name, Zahau, in May) was looking after Max at the time. Rebecca was in the bathroom at the time of the death. The 13-year-old girl present is believed to be Rebecca's younger sister, and it is she, not Zahau, who called 911.* That afternoon: Zahau Nalepa asks Camp Diggity Dogs if her Weimaraner could be boarded following Max's accident. Her demeanor is "nice, polite, subdued and mellow." Jonah's brother Adam Shacknai reportedly arrives at the house after Max's fall.
- Tuesday, July 12: Zahau is seen sobbing and distraught at the kennels.
- That evening: A loud party or loud music is heard by neighbors of the house. Zahau is last seen alive Tuesday evening. She also talks to her sister on the phone as she gets ready for bed, sounding "normal."
- Wednesday July 13, 12.05 a.m.: Rebecca calls her voicemail and listens to a message that says Max is likely to die imminently.
6.45 a.m.: Shacknai's brother, Adam, discovers Nalepa hanging naked from an outdoor balcony by her neck, with her hands and feet bound in orange cord. He calls 911. No suicide note is found. Adam and Nalepa are the only people on the property at the time, police said. Adam is currently not considered a suspect. Later, Jonah's ex-wife Dina Shacknai is reported to be "a witness in Zahau's death."
That evening: defense attorney Paul Pfingst is retained to represent someone in the family.
- Thursday, July 14: Zahau Nalepa autopsy scheduled. Results not released.
- Sunday, July 17: Max dies in hospital.
- Monday July 18: Police launch investigation into Max's death. "Sexual accident" theory of Zahau Nalepa's death is ruled out by authorities. Max's autopsy scheduled for July 17 or 18. Shacknai hires Sitrick & Co. PR firm to represent him.
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- Shacknai Death Probe Comes Down to the Rope, the Party and the Reputation
- If Probe of Shacknai Deaths Lingers, Medicis May Contemplate Life Without Its CEO
- Death and the CEO: Spouse Abuse Records Don't Explain Timeline at Shacknai's House