Two Sides to the Tugboat Captain

When Adam Shacknai appeared in court he was impeccably dressed in a polished suit. His answers were polite and mild-mannered.

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When he testified Adam spent some time cleaning his glasses when he was asked to examine photos of the crime scene and the victim – arguably his own handiwork.

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This was his demeanor when the 911 call was played back in court.

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On Adam’s final day in court, he appeared completely different – dressed casually in black, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and compared to everyone else in the room, under dressed, especially for January in California.

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Outside court Adam was less polished, and so was his statement to the media. Fullscreen capture 20190701 011149Fullscreen capture 20190701 011306Fullscreen capture 20190701 011424Fullscreen capture 20190701 011610Fullscreen capture 20190701 011629

As the retinue left the premises, Adam stood out as something of an oddball, even from a distance. Fullscreen capture 20190701 011808Fullscreen capture 20190701 011723Fullscreen capture 20190701 011733Fullscreen capture 20190701 011749Fullscreen capture 20190701 011758

Apparently on the same day as the civil trial concluded, Adam sat down for an interview, still dressed in the same clothes. The interview appears to be in a hotel room.


This same wardrobe change from brown-grey suit to brown-grey shirt repeatedly itself in 2018.

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18 thoughts on “Two Sides to the Tugboat Captain

  1. Something else of note in this article Adam says “When she was alive she was OK. I was probably the only person that thought she was OK, by the way, (Shacknai said, noting that Zahau) was taking a lot of flack from the community, from my brother’s friends. She was not accepted.” What community? And which of his brother’s friends didn’t accept her?

    She was so isolated – away from her family, with a man who was ready to discard her, it’s just very sad and she still hasn’t gotten justice.


    • I was probably the only person that thought she was OK, >>>So he would be in a position to know a staged suicide could be gotten away with.


  2. A clip was all I was allowed from the Oxygen presentation, where the strange sort of churning noises and grunts Adam was making during the 911 call was analyzed. Can you shed any light as to what was found out? It’s my working hypothesis that soon after Adam lowered Rebecca over the railing he then cut her down. He wasn’t cutting during the 911 call. Why wait? Then I listened to a youtube of a beach walking tour near Jonah’s house and the wind and surf sounds could be what we are hearing in that 911 call. In otherwords he was not busy cutting her down while on the phone, he had gone to a more noisy area to make his call, by the beach. No one at that time of day would pay him any mind. He may have run around to the front to see the house address, but it wasn’t from the back yard imo.


  3. There is another case I found extremely interesting in 2005 – it was re-opened again in 2012, then the FBI shut it down completely. The disappearance overboard of George Smith from the cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas 7/05. There is a big cast of characters and interestingly one of them, Josh Askin was represented by Keith Greer. He encouraged Josh to take the 5th, fearful that whatever he said would be used against him in the FBI investigation. The 48 Hours Mystery Murder at Sea features Keith Greer several times. Greer believes the case can be summed up with the words “too much alcohol.” Yes, but what happened. The strange blood stain on the canape below the deck balcony railing belies a suicide jump into the sea, or an accidental drunken fall. There also were two little blood streaks found in George’s bed.

    We have a diverse cast of characters and events of that night: the casino manager seen with George’s wife, who was found in the hallway passed out; the Russian-Americans, a fight between George and Jennifer, his wife, and a kick to the groin, and what a passenger Keith Hyman heard from his next door room – noises like a drinking game, an argument on the balcony, 3 males walking out of George’s room (should have been 4), a lone male voice, furniture being moved, “trashing of the room” sounds, then at 4:30 a.m. a loud thud. Josh Askin also failed an FBI polygraph.

    I know you have other projects in the works, but please put this one on your back burner at some point. I think it’s fascinating.


    • If you come across any aspects touched on in INTO THE BELLY OF THE WHALE but not finalized in INSIDE THE WHALE please let me know.


  4. Sure. But you are very consistent. It’s a good reminder just how much content is in the first book. I’m reading it now as if I hadn’t read it over a year ago – and in a sense I didn’t. I was reading it from a different point of view then. It’s always a good idea if you are going to read something again or watch a movie you have seen before to wipe the slate clean and look again as if you had never seen it before. Then the information is new and not colored by the mindset “I know.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah it’s amazing how what we know [or think we know] creates cognitive bias and murk which muddy True Crime reality. This is why we have to constantly “not know”. It’s the best way to learn more.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I wonder if Adam ever told Jonah what really happened. Or did Jonah even ask. I might see how Adam would keep that little secret to himself – but if he did tell Jonah would he have made up a story? For instance he could have said something like “she came at me man, with a knife.” But of course hanging her over the rail wouldn’t point to self defense. Or he could have said “I was just trying to help and she told me she hurt Max.” Dina said Adam was very intelligent and that he wrote stories. I’d love to read some of those stories. I’d like to see what he likes to write about. Because I think contained in one of those stories would be the kind of cryptic message he wrote on the door. And when you called the Spreckles mansion a monstrosity I laughed out loud. Because it’s what I was already thinking. Why do people buy big monstrosities – like the Watts house. Apparently whoever bought it from Jonah for 9 million wants to unload it. They are listing it for $16.9 million. It’s completely staged with pristine clean and expensive furniture. Every single room, but no pictures of the Guest House. There have been other upgrades but it’s hard to erase the tragedies that happened inside those walls.


    • I saw that listing as well on when looking in Coronado. Im sorry but I don’t see the appeal, the house is date coded and you can get a newer home for less. I don’t know what makes people buy the cheaply made type of watts home with no character. The entire home was done cheaply and was the definition of “Mcmansion”. Atleast the spreckels Coronado mansion had character.


  6. Odd choice for lawyer – Seth Weisburst – from San Francisco – who specializes in commercial litigation and arbitration, securities and broker dealer matters, contract disputes and antitrust cases.


  7. Hi ya Ralph. Adam got off scott free – his insurance settled, and the case is closed. The San Diego sheriff’s office did a polite little investigation into the homicide allegations, then dropped it. So the tugboat captain is allowed to keep all of his money.


  8. This is still a big mystery to me though. If we take Dina and Nina out of the equation, then what do we have – a sexually motivated crime? And that doesn’t add up either. I was all for that for a while, it’s certainly what Keith Greer thought, but really – why did he enter the house that night and end up with a dead woman hanging from the balcony? So to me, Dina and Nina need to come back into the scenario, one or the other, or both.


    • I’m not convinced Adam sexually assaulted her. He may have. But I’m not convinced. He was living in his brother’s mansion, it was his brother’s girlfriend. Do you [not you, anyone] mean to tell me he didn’t care what his brother thought about that, and that his brother didn’t care – or wouldn’t have cared – when he found out?


  9. It’s incredible to me the lengths Jonah went through to work as a silent partner with the Sheriff’s Dept. to have Rebecca’s murder ruled a suicide. Which continues to this day. Given the contentious relationship between his ex wife Dina and himself, if there were any reason to suspect she was present for Rebecca’s murder just as a purely tit for tat it’s odd he removed himself from any kind of activism connected to her death – especially since at the same time Dina was actively trying to investigate whether Rebecca or Xena had caused Max to go over the staircase banister. She kept that up for quite some time until she was named in the wrongful death suit – then she pulled away – but as little as a year ago she still says she wants answers.

    I think in Dina’s relationship with Jonah she wanted to get a leg up on him and resented the controlling. If we compare their marriage to Shan’ann and Watts relationship Watts was content allowing Shan’ann to call the shots – but Dina was not content. Dina picked the wrong guy to tangle with. He was never going to lose a battle for control with her,or anyone else, not ever. But she was very mistrustful of him, otherwise why buy a house near the Spreckles mansion so that she could drop in on him whenever he had Max. Yet she was in Arizona when he took his fall.

    Into the Belly of the Whale seems to focus mostly on Max’s fall (although I’m 62% into it for a second time) and it does seem suspicious to me that Jonah would choose to get a gym work out in on the morning he promised Max they would go to the zoo. Did he rescind that promise and Max did some daring and risky things in response to his father disappearing when he was promised the Zoo? And Dina is in Arizona – far away. What a horrible fall. It’s like he was catapulted over the stair rail, he didn’t just fall like a stone straight down. If he was able to grab the chandelier he must have done so from the chain, not the glass. I’m leaning now toward the scooter not being involved, other than he bounced and landed near enough to the scooter which was on the ground floor such that it twisted onto his leg.


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