Mysterious Deaths at Spreckels Mansion: 'Loud Party' the Day After Max Shacknai's Accident

 @EllenKilloran
on July 18 2011 11:30 AM

Medecis CEO Jonah Shacknai lost his son and his girlfriend in the same week, both deaths a result of bizarre and mysterious circumstances.

Jonah Shacknai released a statement with his ex-wife Dina Romano announcing that their son Max (known to friends and family as Maxie) died in the hospital Sunday, nearly a week after a mysterious fall down a staircase at Shacknai's historic Coronado mansion.

On Wednesday, Shacknai's 32-year old girlfriend Rebecca Nalepa (also known as Rebecca Zahau) was found naked, hanging from a rope dangling from a balcony, her wrists and ankles bound with electrical wire.

Emerging details about both deaths -- however scant -- are deepening speculation about Rebecca's possible involvement in Max's accident, as well as who might be resposible for her death.

San Diego County Sheriff Captain Tim Curran told reporters that authorities have not yet ruled out suicide or homicide in as the cause of Nalepa's death.

Because of the unique and bizarre circumstances, it has yet to be determined whether this is a homicide or a suspicious death, Curran said at a news conference. This is a very bizarre death. There is no doubt about it.

Curran said that while Jonah and Adam Shacknai as well as Max Shacknai's mother Dina Romano were being questioned as witnesses, no one has been detained or is being treated as a suspect in Nalepa's death.

Max Shacknai was in Rebecca Nalepa's care on the day of his accident. Very few details of the nature of his accident have emerged. Coronado Police Chief Louis Scanlon said Thursday that the boy had fallen from stairs and was not breathing and did not have a pulse when paramedics arrived.

Jonah's brother Adam Shacknai discovered Rebecca's body on Wednesday, and reportedly cut her down from where she was hanging in an attempt to save her.  He called 911 and paramedics arrived to find her in distress, but efforts to revive her failed. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Reports have emerged of a loud party at the mansion on Tuesday night, when Max would have been in critical condition at the hospital - apparently with both his parents at his bedside around the clock.

Unless Nalepa was not a guest of the party, this information potentially contradicts a statement made by Rebecca's sister.

Mary Zahau-Loehner spoke to ABC News about her sister Rebecca's state of mind before the grisly discovery, saying that when the sisters spoke on Tuesday night, things with Rebecca did not seem out of the ordinary.

She was normal, fine, just getting ready to go to bed, Zahau-Loehner said.

A San Diego kennel owner who spoke to Nalepa on Tuesday said the woman was shaken by the recent events at her home.

It is believed that Jonah Shacknai was not home during his son's injury nor when Rebecca's body was found.

Rebecca Nalepa had quit her job ophthalmic technician in late 2010 or early 2011 in order to devote herself to Shacknai and his children.

She had a previous shoplifting conviction for stealing $1,000 worth of jewelry from a department store.

Shacknai and Nalepa had been dating for two years.

There has been no explanation yet from the medical examiner's office about how Nalepa might have hung herself while her wrists and ankles were bound with electrical wire.

Land records show that Shacknai, 54, whose Scottsdale, Arizona-based company is the maker of the acne treatment Solodyn and wrinkle-filler Restylane, purchased the 27-room landmark property known as the Spreckels Mansion in October 2010.

From 1977 to 1982, Shacknai served as chief aide to the House of Representatives committee with responsibility for health policy, and in other senior legislative positions.

He was also a member of the Commission on the Federal Drug Approval Process, and the National Council on Drugs.

On Thursday, Medicis had its sharpest decline in stock price since February.

Police have sealed all evidence related to the case, including search warrants and Nalepa's autopsy report.

 

 

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