Dead Woman Found Naked, Bound at Historic Mansion

California police investigate the suspicious death of Rebecca Zahau.

ByABC News
July 14, 2011, 3:01 PM

July 14, 2011— -- Police are investigating the death of Rebecca Zahau, 32, who was found bound and naked at a multimillion-dollar, historic mansion in Coronado, Calif., where a 6-year-old suffered a severe injury earlier in the week.

"This is a very bizarre death, there's no doubt about it," San Diego Sheriff's Capt. Tim Curran told reporters regarding Zahau's death.

Even so, police cannot say if will lead to a criminal investigation.

"There are some very unique ways" people might kill themselves, Curran said. "If it was determined to be a suicide, people will do some very bizarre things."

Authorities discovered Zahau on Wednesday, July 13, after a house guest, Adam Shacknai, told police he found her with a rope around her neck hanging from a balcony off the main house.

When police arrived at the historic Spreckels Mansion, they found Zahau's body on the lawn in the backyard. Shacknai told them he had cut her down.

He is thought to have been the only person home, and may have been the last person to see her alive, investigators said.

Since 2007, the mansion has belonged to Shacknai's brother, Jonah Shacknai, the multimillionaire founder and CEO of Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation in Scottsdale, Ariz. Police said it may have been his summer home.

Zahau's hands were bound behind her back and her feet were bound, but her hands and feet did not appear ever to have been bound together, police said. Though Adam Shacknai said she was hanging from a rope, investigators did not disclose what kind of material bound her hands and feet.

The home's balcony, which lies outside of a bedroom, is about 10 to 15 feet from the ground. Police were not immediately aware how Zahau's body would have been anchored if, indeed, it had been hanging.

If it was a suicide, it was unclear how Zahau could have hung herself while also binding her hands and feet.

Earlier Activity at Spreckels Mansion

Zahau's death caps an eventful week at the mansion.

On Monday morning, Coronado police received a call to the mansion from a woman they would not identify requesting medical aid for a 6-year-old boy believed to be the son of Jonah Shacknai's ex-wife.

The child "had fallen from stairs and was not breathing and did not have a pulse," Coronado Police Chief Louis Scanlon said today.

Paramedics performed CPR and the boy was hospitalized. He was in critical condition Thursday, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

"At this time, we have no information that would lead us to believe this is anything other than a tragic accident with the child," he said.

Police said they don't see any connection between Zahau's death and the boy's injuries.

In between the boy's accident and the discovery of Zahau's body, neighbors told ABC News affiliate KGTV, a loud party took place at the mansion on Tuesday night. However, police said today they were not aware of any parties.

Zahau, who previously went by the last name Nalepa, reinstated her maiden name, Zahau, in May, documents from the Superior Court of Arizona show, KGTV reported.

Property records show Zahau's last known address was in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Investigating the Mysterious Death at the Spreckels Mansion

The 27-room mansion overlooking the beach is on the same block as the Larry Lawrence mansion, where Bill Clinton took his first vacation as president.

It was built by John Spreckels, a well-known California businessman who made a fortune in the shipping industry, eventually acquiring several properties, newspapers and the San Diego street railway system.

The home is more than 12,000 square feet and, according to KGTV, it sold in March 2007 for $13 million.

Investigators said there remains forensic work to be done, and they were awaiting the results of an autopsy from the San Diego medical examiner.

However, Curran said Thursday, there is "no information indicating this is anything more than an isolated incident in the city of Coronado."