Zahau Family Not Suicide

November 10, 2011 by staff 

Zahau Family Not Suicide, Nina Romano was confused about what happened to her nephew at the Spreckels mansion from the moment Rebecca Zahau picked her up at Lindbergh Field.

Max Shacknai, 6, suffered grave injuries in a fall down the mansion’s main staircase on the morning of July 11, according to the boy’s autopsy report.

Zahau, 32, was babysitting Max at the time of his fall and Romano flew down from her home near Sacramento that same night.

“We got in the car and the first thing I said was, ‘Rebecca what happened?’” recalled Romano.

“I heard Maxie was walking up the stairs and he had a cardiac arrest. That makes no sense to me. I said, ‘He’s a six year old boy. He’s a healthy boy. He plays soccer. He plays sports. I don’t understand.’ And (Rebecca) just looked at me and she said, ‘I know.’ And that was it,” said Romano, 41, during a two-hour interview detailing the events.

“And I said, ‘Okay, well, where did he fall from? Did he fall from the first set of stairs, the little landing, the stairs going up, the top landing by the bedrooms, where did he fall from?’” Romano continued. “She said twice, ‘He fell from the bedroom. He fell from the bedroom.’ And I looked at her and said, ‘How do you know that? I thought you didn’t see him.’ No answer.”

Romano’s non-identical, twin sister is Dina Shacknai, the boy’s mother and ex-wife of the mansion’s then owner, Arizona pharmaceutical tycoon Jonah Shacknai, 54.

“She would not talk about the accident again, not one word,” Romano said. “And I thought this is really weird because if I was her and I was picking up a family member of a boy that I was watching, I would give full disclosure of everything I knew, everything I saw, everything I did.”

Romano said she visited her nephew at the hospital the following evening, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12.

“He had tubes coming out of everywhere. He had a neck brace on. He was on a ventilator. It was just shocking for me to see him like that,” Romano recalled.

Romano said she returned to her sister Dina’s house on G Avenue in Coronado – less than a half mile from the Spreckels mansion – around 9:30 p.m. and she still didn’t have the answers she was looking for. She decided to send Rebecca a text message.

“I was at my sister’s house and I texted from my sister’s kitchen. It was 9:41 p.m. and I have my phone records. I waited until 9:55 p.m. and I got no answer,” Romano said.

Romano gave News 8 a copy of her Verizon cell phone bill showing an outgoing message to Zahau’s cell phone at 9:41 p.m. For some unexplained reason, Zahau’s phone records showed a time stamp indicating the text was received by Zahau at 10:41 p.m., exactly one hour later.

Both cell phones were in California at the time and in July, Arizona time is the same as California time. Zahau and her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai lived in Arizona and vacationed during the summer at the oceanfront home in Coronado.

Romano said she never received a response to that 9:41 p.m. text message, so she decided to walk to the mansion to see if she could talk to Zahau about Max’s fall.

“I kept saying to myself, ‘I don’t get it.’ I thought I’m just going to go ask Rebecca, can you please show me where you found him? Show me how you found him. I just wanted to see. Show me where he was positioned. I just wanted to see for myself,” Romano said. “That’s why I went there. I just wanted her to show me how she found him because I didn’t understand.”

She said it was about a five minute walk.

“I went up to the front door and rang the bell, nothing; rang the bell a second time, nothing. I knocked on the door. I looked through the glass, nothing,” Romano remembered. “It didn’t look like anybody was home. The whole bottom part of the house was dark.”

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