SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego jury today awarded more than $5 million in damages to the family of a woman who authorities said committed suicide by hanging herself at a Coronado mansion in 2011, determining that the brother of the woman's boyfriend was liable for her death.
Rebecca Zahau, 32, was found dead the day after her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai's 6-year-old son, Max Schacknai, fell from a second-story landing at the mansion. The boy died five days later.
Zahau's mother and older sister filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Adam Shacknai, the brother of Jonah Shacknai, alleging the defendant confronted Zahau the day after Max fell.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Keith Greer, alleged that Adam Shacknai delivered four blows to the head of Zahau, rendering her partially or fully unconscious. Greer also alleged that the defendant sexually assaulted Zahau, tied her hands and feet, put a noose around her neck and threw her body off a second-story balcony.
Adam Shacknai's attorney, Dan Webb, countered that there was no evidence that his client -- who has lived and worked in Memphis for 30 years -- had anything to do with Zahau's death. Adam Shacknai said Zahau encouraged him to come to San Diego to support his brother at his time of need.
Jonah Shacknai testified during the monthlong trial that it is ``inconceivable'' that his younger brother had anything to do with Zahau's death.
Jonah Shacknai testified that he was at Rady Children's Hospital visiting Max the morning of July 13, 2011, when he got a text from Adam asking him to call back.
``He asked me if I was sitting down and he told me Rebecca had taken her life,'' Jonah Shacknai testified. ``I was speechless.''
Webb said four law enforcement agencies investigated Zahau's death for two months and determined that she committed suicide.