The Dateline episode “The Mansion on Ocean Boulevard” tells the story of Rebecca Zahau. The 32-year-old was born in Myanmar; she moved to America in her twenties and later fell in love with millionaire Jonah Shacknai, then CEO of Medicis Pharmaceutical. On July 13, 2011, Zahau was found dead at the Spreckels Mansion in Coronado, California, where she lived with Shacknai. Her body, which was naked, was bound and hanging from a balcony when it was found by Jonah’s brother Adam Shacknai, a tugboat captain who was also staying at the mansion. Zahau’s death was first ruled as a suicide. Two days prior, in Zahau’s care at the house, Jonah’s 6-year-old son Max Shacknai fell from a second-floor landing. Five days later, in a coma at the hospital, Max died. His death was determined accidental.
In April 2018, Adam Shacknai was found liable for the hanging death of Zahau at the 27-room beachfront mansion. During the civil trial, Adam Shacknai testified and referred to Zahau’s family as “posers” for making claims without evidence. There were no fingerprints, DNA or any other physical evidence that connected Shacknai to the death. After the verdict, outside the courtroom, Shacknai told the media he plans to appeal. He said: “I’m standing tall. I’m not worried about these posers. They got away with something once. They got lucky… They aren’t going to get lucky again.” Shacknai’s attorney, Dan Webb, said, “I am absolutely confident that at the end of the day, this case will be reversed and Adam Shacknai will be exonerated.”
Zahau’s family was awarded more than $5 million in damages. Adam Shacknai will not face criminal charges nor can he be sentenced to prison. Dateline airs Fridays at 10 pm on NBC.