“Rebecca Zahau was probably sexually assaulted…” No, she probably wasn’t.

In the run-up to the finale of 4-part Death at the Mansion series, the idea of a sexual assault has come up again. The Zahau family attorney – Keith Greer – believes the case “had the appearance” of sexual assault. That’s true, but there’s a difference between sexual assault and a staged sexual assault.

Evidence That Points To Rebecca Zahau’s Death Being A Sexually-Motivated Homicide– Oxygen

Expert Witness Believes Rebecca Zahau Was Sexually Assaulted Despite Official Findings – Oxygen

Attorney claims further analysis of evidence disproves Coronado mansion suicide – Fox5

Obviously there are multiple “symptoms” to infer a sexual assault. Pornography was viewed on the night or morning of the murder [exactly when this occurred is strangely still unknown]. Adam Shacknai admits he masturbated to Asian pornography on his phone just before discovering and touching the body.

Adam testified that “with some embarrassment and hesitation” he told the officer he had masturbated that morning before finding Rebecca’s body. He also stated that believes he took a shower. Next, Adam said that he left the guest house and intended to walk to a nearby area to get a cup of coffee. It was at that time that Adam said he saw Rebecca’s body hanging from the second-story balcony.

If Adam’s semen or any of his DNA was found on the victim, he had not one but two handy explanations: he’d masturbated immediately prior, and he was performing CPR on the victim when the cops arrived. Plausible deniability.

But apparently a Hewlett-Packard laptop belonging to Rebecca in the guest room also showed searches for lesbian and anime pornography in the 24 hours prior to Rebecca’s death.

There are also the self-evident aspects of sexual assault:

“Beautiful woman, naked, bound, gagged, hands tied behind her back, hung off in this very demeaning manner, but then the sexual assault became apparent,” Greer said. At the civil trial, forensic specialist Lisa DiMeo, formerly of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, was called by Greer. DiMeo testified that Zahau’s menstrual blood was on all four sides of the knife handle that was found at the scene.

Fullscreen capture 20190624 120318

Greer alleged at the civil trial that the blood being on all four sides of the handle indicated a sexual assault.“The only source would’ve been if she was sexually assaulted, because it was menstrual fluid,” Greer said.

Greer also references the possibility that someone pinched Rebecca’s breasts. Since no black paint was found on Rebecca’s fingertips, it’s likely someone else – the same person who applied the message on the door, possibly – pinched Rebecca’s breasts.

Rich Williams, of the sheriff’s department homicide unit, reviewed the case with other agencies, following the civil trial. At a 2018 news conference, Williams said that no evidence of a sexual assault was found in either autopsy. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office said in a presentation from July 2011 that their findings indicated “no evidence of a struggle or a sexual assault and no other significant injuries.”

So which is it? No evidence or is there evidence? Well, it’s a bit of both. It’s tempting to imagine that Adam Shacknai, and only Adam Shacknai, committed the sexual assault. He was there. He had opportunity. Who else would do it? And Rebecca Zahau was a much younger, and attractive woman. But it’s also simplistic. Would Adam simply engage with his brother’s girlfriend sexually, then murder her, then stage it to look like a suicide, and then expect his brother of all people to not only believe him, but support him? If he was the only one there, who else could have murdered Rebecca except him? Well, maybe Rebecca… Just as the notion of suicide in itself isn’t impossible, but we would argue, improbable, the notion of sexual assault isn’t impossible, but we need to look deeper and harder to see if it’s reasonably, possibly true.

Is it?

The TCRS position isn’t that Adam is guilty or innocent of sexual assault per se, it’s that someone else might be too. If we look at the “evidence” of sexual assault, it includes the handle of a knife covered in menstrual blood, and Rebecca’s breasts pinched with fingers dabbed in black paint. But what are we talking about here? Rebecca doesn’t seem to have been raped. If someone attacked her for sexual gratification, it appears he [or she] forgot to sexually gratify himself [or herself].

The obvious place to commit a sexual assault would be on Rebecca’s bed. There is no evidence of a struggle on her bed. And the only explicit sign of a struggle in the guest bedroom is a wicker chair turned over, and even that may be part of staging – to make it look like there was a struggle.

Fullscreen capture 20190624 113011

So was there a struggle or wasn’t there?

There was undoubtedly a confrontation where Rebecca was chased, attacked, subdued [hit over the head four times] and eventually strangled. She may have been bound in a rudimentary way at first, then bound with the ski rope after the fact. It may be that during a period of torture she was taunted in a sexually demeaning way. Part of this may have included removing her clothes unless she wasn’t naked already.

Which is more likely – would a man or a woman insert a knife handle into a woman’s genitals in order to degrade her? It’s also possible once the attack and strangling was over, once Rebecca was already dead, someone staged the appearance of a sexual attack, purposefully leaving the knife – smeared with blood – where it was left, perhaps to implicate a third party. Because who is more likely to assault a beautiful woman? A man spending the night in the neighboring guest house, or some other woman?

And did the third party then – faced with this inculpatory evidence – try to reverse the implications, by staging things to implicate someone else…?


24 thoughts on ““Rebecca Zahau was probably sexually assaulted…” No, she probably wasn’t.

  1. I would think if a steak knife were inserted into Rebecca whoever did that would be wearing gloves so as not to be cut by the blade of the knife, and then also the glove would have blood on it. Weren’t garden gloves found outside under the house – and one other kind of glove found outside? The glove showed Rebecca’s dna and also someone else but not enough to get a sample for testing. Who knew where the garden gloves were kept or could anyone just have spotted them outside – maybe on the 3 legged table, and scooped them up. In any event, it’s a sadistic act more so than sexual – or sado-sexual – and I’m leaning toward a male rather than female. In fact, his masturbatory act might have been performed while viewing the Asian beauty all tied up, using the knife as a part of the fantasy – and that was the Asian porn he said he watched – real – and not a video.


  2. I’m likewise leaning toward a male assailant. The fact of how her body was disposed of speaks to a man’s greater physical strength than that of a woman – let’s face it, women just tend generally to not be as strong as men. And a dead body is dead weight – it takes a lot of bodily strength to move it.

    I agree with Sly’s thinking here.

    Why couldn’t the assailant have brought their *own* gloves and left them on the property?


  3. Because they were ordinary household garden gloves. An assailant who brings their own gloves and who premeditates murder would bring something of their own, and likely not cloth gloves. Also do we know what size these gloves are? If they are women’s gloves it’s not likely Adam would be trying to fit his hand inside them. Just a hunch but I think they were Rebecca’s garden gloves – who else would have the time to do some pruning and gardening outside other than paid gardeners and groundskeepers, and my thinking is they would take their supplies with them or leave them in some kind of a separate building with shovels, rakes, pruning shears, etc. Not lying around. Nina had carte blanche to come and go on the property but I”m sure she would stop short of garden work on Jonah’s property. Doesn’t mean either Nina or Dina might see the gloves lying around and decide to use them. And there was one other glove found at the house too – sort of like the random nitrile glove found on top of Watt’s refrigerator – without a mate but I have to check the facts again to remember just where it was found.


    • If those gloves had been Rebecca’s, they would have been small or extra small. Too small for a man; too small for the Amazon Dina. Do we know what size they were?


  4. I’m reading now the gloves were a pair of “black gloves” and a latex glove – where did I get garden gloves? Sorry, I don’t mean to mislead. Another article also talks about a clump of Rebecca’s hair found in the shower and in the guest house. This is also strange as it’s the first I’ve heard of hair in the guest house. And underwear that wasn’t tested – because Jonah told the police that his daughter Gabby had slumber parties in the guest house. That’s a reason they didn’t test?


    • Please provide links to the articles you provide as sources, otherwise it’s hearsay. Rebecca’s hair in the shower of the guest house makes sense. She may have run there seeking refuge.


  5. Also “Justice for Rebecca” rebeccazahau.blogspot.com 11/17/2011:

    “The Investigation: latex gloves with mixed DNA, mixed DNA in Ms. Zahau’s fingernail clippings, blood and a clump of hair found in the shower, panties and a clump of hair found in the guest house of the mansion.”

    Hair collection is mentioned twice on the article I sent a link to previously, as well as there being 3 gloves. 1) hair in the shower in mansion; 2) clump of hair found in the guest house.


  6. There is also a True Crime Apple Podcast I pulled from Keith Greer’s twitter account put out by True Crime Deadline. I don’t know how old it is seems to have a copyright of 2019. It’s an interesting podcast with Dina Shacknai. She is very poised and articulate when discussing the very sad death of her son Max and her initial quest to prove it was a homicide. She believes Xena (Rebecca’s sister) should be questioned. She states that if a heart condition were present with Max then it might be understandable that he had simply had a heart attack and fallen – that he was covered in bandages so she could not see his injuries initially. But then she changed her tune to Max’s death being a homicide. When Matt turns the questions to Rebecca Dina is still composed, does not believe Rebecca committed suicide but when he mentions the witness on the bicycle just before the 34:30 mark in the podcast Dina becomes extremely agitated, although it’s an agitated attempt to be logical. She seems incensed at the bicyclist’s remarks and adds silly details that her hair was not long, it had just been cut into a bob and she must have remembered the CCTV video where it appears up on top of her head where she says she wore it in a ponytail.

    Dina has some other ideas about who could have killed Rebecca. She mentions Jonah getting a new dog, that it was being trained, and that there were some partying types staying in the guest house before Adam arrived. They should be looked into she believes. I think if you google True Crime Apple Podcast Matt Johnson or go to Keith Greer’s twitter and follow his link you can get there and have a listen.


    • Thanks for sourcing this. Very interesting. See if you can source the official court transcript of the civil trial, and any of the depositions.


  7. Third Amended Complaint For: 1) Wrongful Death 2) Battery 3) Assault 4) Conversion

    Click to access proposed-tac.pdf

    Case 37-2013-00075418-cu-po-ctl

    Estate of Rebecca Zahau v. Shacknai (3:13-cv-01624) (probably can’t open all of these)


    looks like there was a lot of scrambling done by Dina to remove herself from the lawsuit

    Depositions – I’ll keep looking – with a case number you might be able to get somewhere (case number above)

    Also a question in next comment –


  8. Did you know – you probably did – Nina Romero’s teenage son flew with Nina to Coronado the day after Max fell. He could have provided some useful information as to what time his mother walked from G Avenue (Dina’s house) to the Spreckles mansion five minutes away, (to confront Rebecca) and what time she returned. He could have been asked what state of mind his mother was in that night, and whether she took anything with her to the mansion, and also when his Aunt Dina returned to her house. And, he probably wasn’t asked anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keith Greer mentioned that there were “witnesses” to Dina and Nina’s whereabouts at the niehgboring house throughout the night. I’m not surprised these witnesses were her own family.


    • Good call on the discarded underwear. The “red bed cover” is right beside the overturned chair. That’s also hard to explain, unless it’s an additional covering of the bed, or a cushion over for the chair itself. But if you look at the bed, there’s no sign of a red cover on it in the same image. Was it removed as part of processing the scene? Note the numbered yellow tags which shows the scene was at an advanced stage of being processed and photographed. It’s crazy that Gore directed his team to do a review in April 2018 and after 7 months, this piffly PowerPoint is all they had to show for it. There’s no real forensic examination of the evidence.


  9. I have a better idea from the powerpoint pictures, just how many structures there were on the Spreckles mansion grounds. It’s more like a compound. There is the caretaker’s quarters – which is a huge house as is,(and probably where the rope was housed) and then the Guest quarters etc., but since the neighbor heard “help me help me” from “the porch” I see what porch she’s referring to – the long outdoor area at the back of the house. That must have been when Rebecca ran outside and yelled for help. Also I see several potted plants. And, in their powerpoint they are calling the gloves “garden gloves” so to my thinking Rebecca was using those gloves to perhaps plant some potted plants to add some little touches to Jonah’s house at the back there. You can see the potted plants. She probably felt pretty useless there once his infatuation had worn off.

    I would think if they removed the red bed cover for processing they wouldn’t have tossed it on the floor. Might have been a struggle on the bed.

    I’m not buying that Rebecca held the big butcher knife behind her back trying to saw through the rope. Especially if she was dead by then! Someone could have taken her limp hand and pressed her fingers into the knife blade to get her prints on something or if she were being taunted with the knife she might have attempted to grab it but then you would see cuts on her fingers. What a pathetic investigation. Reminds me of Alex Hunter and Mary Lacy.


    • The rope was apparently retrieved from the garage.

      It’s also possible the gloves were used to render aid to Max without getting cut on shards of glass [and perhaps to remove shattered glass]. The gloves could be garden gloves. Just because someone refers to them as “garden gloves” doesn’t necessarily meaning that’s what they were. The hanging rope wasn’t a rope purchased for hanging, it was a ski-rope. This is the danger and difficulty in using an “obvious” label or an object found at a crime scene.

      This really doesn’t look like the scene of a life and death struggle or the scene of a sexual assault. No blood was found on the bed.

      In the Oscar Pistorius case the duvet was tossed onto the floor and spread open during the processing of the scene.

      I do think it’s possible or even likely that Rebecca was attacked, subdued, bound, tortured and then either abandoned or knocked unconscious. After that there was a follow-up attack. I think it’s less likely someone planted her fingerprint on the knife than that she attempted to use it. The fact that two knives are in the image also suggests two people taunting her with stabbing weapons. The severe head wounds and the possibility of a sexual assault by default imply at least two but possibly more separate, isolated attacks. A similar scenario played out in the Oscar Pistorius case and in the murder of Meredith Kercher. A row followed by torture/threats/blackmail and then murder.


  10. Yes, okay – but do you think she had the knife behind her back in an attempt to saw through the ski rope?

    Also it’s appalling to me that evidence is thrown on the floor (Oscar, Rebecca) of a potential crime scene and either looked at there, or wadded up to be bagged later. Are investigators and crime scene techs not properly trained? And the boot print in the dusty dirty balcony – “he was told” it was his (the officer). Same with the high tech boot print in the wine cellar room of the Ramsey house. Maybe it wasn’t Burke’s from that night, but if it was from Burke’s shoe it would show he had been in there on some other occasion yet it was written off as belonging to an officer’s.


    • The fingerprint lines up with a knife behind her back, so it’s certainly possible and shouldn’t be excluded. I don’t think it’s laughable.

      Bear in mind when processing a crime scene, this involves picking things up, examining things, collecting samples. It’s theoretically possible for any savvy defense lawyer to argue that at any point in an investigation, strict protocols were violated. Even when they weren’t, they case raise doubts that contamination was possible. Crime scene photos are often use in support of this allegation.

      In the Pistorius case the door through which the four bullets were shot was smashed to pieces by Pistorius, and several fragments landed in the toilet [which we know was flushed]. When the door was reconstructed, a few splinters remained missing. One can’t exclude the efforts of the perpetrators to do the best and most decisive job in permanently destroying, removing or cleaning evidence they themselves were confronted with first. So the notion of cops doing a poor job is always secondary to the staging and concealing efforts of the primary suspect. In some cases, specifically this one, the Ramsey case and the McCanns, the contamination of the scene or the lack of a proper immediate investigation [and declaration of the crime scene as a crime scene] is chronic, and has a lasting and crippling effect of the odds of a successful prosecution.

      It’s appalling >>>from this side of the timeline. Bear in mind almost all the high-profile cases are misrepresentations in some significant way: Ramseys [kidnapping versus sexual assault/murder], McCann [sexual abduction – negligence], Amanda Knox [burglary, sexual assault – murder], Pistorius [accidental shooting – deliberate or intentional murder], Zahau [suicide – homicide]. In any case that pretends not to be a homicide, the crime scene and suspects, and evidence, is initially treated a lot less casually than it should. And it’s because the misrepresenters often get away with the initial phase, evidence is contaminated and they have time to gather their wits [and PR].

      Ito Burke’s bootprint, there was also a second print from a still unknown source.


  11. Dr. Michael Baden in “Dead Reckoning” goes into great detail how the crime scene must be preserved, protective clothing donned, and conclusions set aside until everything is processed and analyzed. And of course the perpetrator has had a head start making things appear one way when what actually happened was something else. In many ways Watts did well, didn’t he? He had to think on his feet quickly when his home was unexpectedly invaded before he had a change to tidy up some loose ends.


    • Yeah Watts is another great example where he had a lot of time to cover his tracks – by allowing law enforcement to first assume it was just a disappearance/missing persons case.


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