SAN DIEGO — A woman found hanging at a San Diego mansion in what was deemed a suicide died at the hands of her boyfriend’s brother, a civil jury in California ruled Wednesday.
Jurors in the wrongful-death trial determined that Adam Shacknai must pay Rebecca Zahau’s family $5 million for the loss of her love and companionship, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. He was also ordered to pay an additional $167,000 for the loss of financial support she would have provided her mother and siblings.
Jurors haven’t yet determined whether to order punitive damages.
Shacknai, 54, dropped his head as the verdicts were read, the newspaper said. He is the brother of pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai, whom Zahau was dating when she died at the home in Coronado.
A coroner said the 2011 death was a suicide, and Zahau’s family sued to challenge that decision.
San Diego County sheriff’s officials said Wednesday they stand by the original investigation but are willing to review any new evidence that came out of the civil trial.
C. Keith Greer, the lawyer representing the Zahau family, argued that Shacknai struck Zahau on the head, sexually assaulted and strangled her, and then staged the hanging to look like she took her own life.
“Why did Adam Shacknai brutally murder Rebecca Zahau?” Greer asked rhetorically in court Monday. “It’s one of the oldest reasons in the world — sex.”
Zahau, 32, was the only adult known to have been present two days before her death when Jonah Shacknai’s 6-year-old son, Max, suffered brain injuries in a fall from a staircase. Max died several days later. His death was ruled accidental.
Adam Shacknai, from Memphis, Tennessee, had come to California after his nephew was injured and was staying in the mansion’s guest house.