A California civil jury found Adam Shacknai, the brother of a pharmaceutical tycoon, liable for the 2011 death of Rebecca Zahau.
Despite the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department determining her death to be a suicide at the time, a civil jury in San Diego awarded her family $5 million in damages after they found Shacknai responsible for her death, according to ABC News.
Zahau family’s lawyer argued Shacknai had sexually assaulted then killed her before staging her death to look like a suicide, the Los Angeles Times reports.
He will also have to pay an additional $167,000 to the Zahau family for losing the financial support that she could have given to her mother and siblings, according to the paper.
Zahau was dating Shacknai’s brother, millionaire Jonah Shacknai when she was found hanging naked from the second-story balcony of his Coronado mansion.
After the verdict, the family’s attorney told reporters they were going to petition the sheriff’s department to “reopen the case to declassify it as a suicide and reclassify it as an open investigation,” ABC News reports.
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In a press release obtained by PEOPLE, the department said it “stands by the findings of the Medical Examiner’s Office and our investigators. These findings were supported by forensic evidence and medical examinations.” But the department is open to looking at new evidence.
“We are always open to reviewing any evidence that could impact our conclusions,” the department said. “Additionally, we are also willing to meet with the Zahau Family to look at any new evidence that came out of the civil trial.”
Rebecca Zahau and Jonah Shacknai
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In a statement obtained by PEOPLE in February, Adam Shacknai’s defense attorney Daniel Webb said he was disappointed that what he said was a “shameful” lawsuit was moving forward to trial.
“Multiple law enforcement agencies conducted thorough investigations and concluded that Rebecca Zahau took her own life,” the statement said. “There is no credible evidence that Adam Shacknai played any role in this tragedy other than being in the awful position of discovering Ms. Zahau’s body and immediately calling 911.”
“Nevertheless, he and the rest of the Shacknai family has had to endure six years of baseless conspiracy theories, accusations and lawsuits that were eventually dismissed,” it continued. “We are confident that the trial will conclusively demonstrate that the allegations against Adam are false and finally bring some closure to the outrageous claims that have been made against him.”
On July 13, Zahau, 32, was found naked, with her hands and feet bound, hanging by a makeshift noose in the courtyard of her boyfriend’s mansion just hours after she accessed her voicemail on which was a message about the grave condition of Shacknai’s 6-year-old son Max.
Max was in the hospital after falling down a staircase in the home. Zahau had been the only adult supervising the boy when he fell. He later died from his injuries.
When Zahau was found dead, investigators discovered a message written in black paint on the door of the guest bedroom, reading, “She saved him can he save her.”
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“The case is certainly suspicious,” Sgt. Roy Frank of the San Diego sheriff’s homicide unit said at the time. “It is not usual to find a female in a backyard unclothed and tied up. That, combined with Max’s accident, makes it suspicious.”
However, after a seven-week investigation into her death, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department concluded Zahau had died by suicide because she felt responsible for Max’s death.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said during a press conference, “We came to one conclusion that these deaths were not a result of a criminal act. Science is our best witness in this case. It is not biased and it doesn’t lie.”