November 10, 2011 by staff
Dina Shacknai, For the first time since the nkd, bound body of Rebecca Zahau was allegedly found hanging from a second floor balcony at the historic Spreckels mansion in Coronado, CA just two days after the 6-year-old child she was caring for, Maxfield Shacknai, had himself apparently been injured in a fall which would eventually take his life, the boy’s aunt, Nina Romano, has come forward to talk about both deaths.
The 41-year-old Ms. Romano spoke to KFMB-TV News8 San Diego field producer David Gotfredson in an exclusive interview lasting 2-hours on Monday, November 7, 2011.
Answering each question presented to her in a seemingly open and direct manner, Ms. Romano, who is the fraternal twin sister of Dina Romano, the child’s mother and former wife of pharmaceutical CEO Jonah Shacknai, spoke compellingly, and raised new doubts about what actually happened.
The interview was broadcast just a week before the results of a second autopsy of the exhumed body of 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau performed by renowned pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, will be presented on the Dr. Phil McGraw television series, airing on Monday, November 14.
An attached slide show also accompanies this report.
Nina Romano confirmed that she was the woman whom a neighbor of the beachfront mansion located at 1043 Ocean Boulevard in Coronado, CA, had identified to police as seeing at the residence on Tuesday evening, April 12, 2011 at about 10:00 p.m. PDT.
She claimed that she never saw Ms. Zahau that night because the house was dark except for an upstairs hall light. After no one answered the doorbell, she claims that she walked to a gate by the garage, and then left and returned to her nearby sister’s home.
She said the reason she walked over to the mansion was because Zahau had not answered a text message she had sent to the woman’s cell phone at 9:41 p.m. PDT.
She told the interviewer that Rebecca had been unresponsive and evasive to questions she asked her about Max’s accident shortly after arriving in San Diego, and wanted to be shown exactly where the child had allegedly fallen.
Romano said that she had flown to San Diego the previous day from her home in Northern California to offer support to her sister, after she learned that Max had been injured in an accident.
Ms. Zahau had picked her up at the airport, and driven her to Rady Children’s Hospital where she arrived Monday evening after visiting hours had ended, too late to see her nephew.
Ms. Romano had brought her own son to San Diego with her, and was staying at her sister’s nearby summer home in Coronado. She returned again to the hospital the following day, not knowing the full details or seriousness of Max’s injuries, and stopped first at the gift shop to buy the boy a teddy bear and a book.
She was shocked when she finally saw the unconscious child attached to a respirator in the hospital’s critical care unit, with his vital signs monitored, and various life support tubes coming from his body.
The essence of Ms. Romano’s riveting comments was that she was confused by Rebecca Zahau’s explanations, and after learning of the woman’s death on Wednesday, July 13, that confusion turned to suspicion that Rebecca had withheld information about what actually happened to Max, and had taken her own life over guilt for her responsibility in the boy’s injuries.
She believed that Zahau’s death deprived the already distraught family from learning the truth about the alleged accident, which she implied might have been staged to cover up what medical experts had first identified as the boy having been suffocated.
In addition, Ms. Romano made the point that her sister Dina’s life was forever changed by her son’s death, and the she and the Shacknai family were appalled over accusations and suspicions that they were involved in killing Ms. Zahau.
Nina claimed they would never bring on additional grief to themselves, especially while Max was struggling for his life, saying nobody had any indication until Thursday, the day after Rebecca’s death, that Max would not survive his injuries. She further stated that Rebecca’s passing just left more unanswered questions.
She also added that she now believed Rebecca had lied about giving Max CPR within two minutes of his fall, and had also fabricated the description of the boy regaining consciousness just long enough to utter the word “Ocean”, the name of the family’s Weimaraner dog in an alleged effort to shift blame for the accident from herself to the pet.
Nina Romano expressed sympathy for the Zahau family, understanding their own loss, and sharing their desire to have the case reopened so that another determination could also be made about the actual cause of Max’s death.
Her statements provides a new dimension to an already bizarre and convoluted mystery, and gives a voice to the suffering of another family.
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