SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will review the death of a woman found hanging inside a mansion after a lawsuit verdict contradicted investigators’ findings that she committed suicide.
Sheriff Bill Gore said Monday that no new evidence was presented in the civil trial but there was new analysis of existing evidence. The review should take 90 days, he said.
Rebecca Zahau, 32, was found dead in 2011 in the Coronado mansion of her boyfriend, pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai. His brother, Adam Shacknai, reported finding her body.
Investigators ruled the death a suicide but Zahau’s mother sued, alleging that Adam Shacknai, 54, sexually assaulted and killed her, then staged the hanging to look like she killed herself.
Earlier this month, a jury found Adam Shacknai liable for the death and awarded more than $5 million to the mother.
According to Gore’s statement, the decision to review the case came after “a productive conversation” with the Zahau family’s attorney, C. Keith Greer.
Adam Shacknai has denied any responsibility in her death, and on Monday issued a statement saying he welcomed the review, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune .
“As I have maintained from the beginning, I was in no way involved with Rebecca’s death,” he wrote. “I will be pleased to assist the investigation in any way requested, as I have all along.”
On the day the jury verdict was announced, the sheriff’s department issued a statement saying it stood behind the Medical Examiner’s Office finding, but was open to reviewing any new evidence that could impact its conclusions.
The statement released Monday doesn’t retract the earlier statement about the Medical Examiner’s Office finding or say that the case is being reopened. Rather, it said evidence will be reviewed in light of how it was analyzed in court.
“In the spirit of transparency and open-mindedness, we have agreed to undertake a fresh review of the case, by investigators who have had no prior involvement with the case, to evaluate the new information,” the statement read.
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