Mother of boy killed in bizarre California mansion death sues for autopsy photos

Published April 04, 2012

| FoxNews.com

The mother of a 6-year-old boy who fell to his death inside a historic San Diego Bay mansion has reportedly sued the county for his autopsy photos.

Dina Shacknai, whose son Max died after falling over a railing inside the Coronado Spreckels Mansion last July, filed the lawsuit March 22, Fox affiliate KSWB-TV reported.

The boy’s father, Arizona pharmaceutical CEO Jonah Shacknai who is divorced from his wife, was not home at the time. Shacknai's girlfriend, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau, was reportedly watching the boy with her 13-year-old sister when the accident occurred.

In a bizarre turn of events, Rebecca Zahau was found hanging by her neck --  naked with her hands and feet bound -- from an outdoor balcony at the mansion two days later. San Diego County investigators ruled her death a suicide – claiming she was grief-stricken over the boy’s accident – but Zahau’s family maintains she was killed.

Court documents allege Dina Shacknai first asked the county for her son's autopsy pictures March 16, but was denied because of a state law that requires a court order before releasing such information, the station reported.

San Diego Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Glenn Wagner could not comment on the Shacknai case specifically, but told KSWB-TV that lawsuits like this are a means to getting a court order.

Dina Shacknai's attorney's declined to comment on the reason for requesting the autopsy pictures, according to the station.

San Diego civil attorney Dan Gilleon, who has filed similar litigation, told the station that the action likely means a wrongful death lawsuit is in the works.

"What's unusual about this suit is they have not alleged any wrongdoing on anyone's part," Gilleon said. "They have filed this solely for those records.  That suggests to me they're trying to get their case in order before they file it."

Anne Bremner, attorney for the Zahau family, said Tuesday she was unaware of the lawsuit.  She is asking the San Diego District Attorney to "look at the case anew" and has submitted information with the Attorney General's office.

Shacknai's brother, Adam, who was staying in the mansion guesthouse at the time of Zahau’s death, found her body and called 911. He reportedly cut the rope in an attempt to save her. His brother, Jonah, was not at home, according to reports. 

The 27-room Spreckels mansion was built in 1908 in the wealthy seaside suburb of about 24,000 people on San Diego Bay.

Jonah Shacknai founded Medicis, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has been chairman and CEO since 1988.

Click for more on this story from Fox5SanDiego.com 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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