Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case
by Caitlin Rother
Award-winning investigative journalist and bestselling author Caitlin Rother explores the mysterious death of 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau, who was found hanging from a second-story balcony of her multimillionaire boyfriend’s San Diego mansion in 2011. She was naked and gagged, with her ankles tied and hands bound behind her. On the door to her bedroom, investigators found a hand-written message: “SHE SAVED HIM CAN YOU SAVE HER.” The death was deemed a suicide, but Rother reveals there’s more to the story…
“I got a girl, hung herself in the guest house.”
The call came on the morning of July 13, 2011, from the historic Spreckels Mansion, a lavish beachfront property in Coronado, California, owned by pharmaceutical tycoon and multimillionaire Jonah Shacknai. When authorities arrived, they found the naked body of Jonah’s girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau, gagged, her ankles tied and her wrists bound behind her. Jonah’s brother, Adam, claimed to have found Rebecca hanging by a rope from the second-floor balcony. On a bedroom door in black paint were the cryptic words: SHE SAVED HIM CAN YOU SAVE HER.
Was this scrawled message a suicide note or a killer’s taunt? Rebecca’s death came two days after Jonah’s six-year-old son, Max, took a devastating fall while in Rebecca’s care. Authorities deemed Rebecca’s death a suicide resulting from her guilt. But who would stage either a suicide or a murder in such a bizarre, elaborate way?
Award-winning investigative journalist Caitlin Rother weaves stunning new details into a personal yet objective examination of the sensational case. She explores its many layers–including the civil suit in which a jury found Adam Shacknai responsible for Rebecca’s death, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department bombshell decision to reconfirm its original findings. As compelling as it is troubling, this controversial real-life mystery is a classic American tragedy that evokes the same haunting fascination as the JonBenet Ramsey and O.J. Simpson cases.
My thoughts: This story was was really big news and captured the attention of many. People were fascinated by the case, wondering what happened and was it ever going to really be known. In 2011, when Rebecca Zahau was found dead, hanging from the balcony of the Spreckels mansion, it just seemed such a bizarre thing to happen. Then you read about Max Shacknai’s injury just 2 days earlier, and you’re really intrigued! Rother followed the story from the time Zahau died, writing and researching the story for 9 years all with an eye to doing this book. She was keeping tabs on the story all along, writing as it went, waiting for the right time. I have seen many shows done on TV about this case, but this book is the latest word and likely the deepest dive into the story. I’ve liked previous works I’ve read by Rother like Poisoned Love, Lost Girls, and Then No One Can Have Her. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Caitlin Rother, and the publisher.
Publisher: Citadel – 368 pages
Published: Apr 27th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS
About the author– Caitlin Rother is a New York Times bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated non-fiction, true crime American-Canadian author and journalist. She worked as an investigative reporter at daily newspapers for nineteen years before deciding to write books full-time. Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. Her more than 100 TV/radio appearances include Nancy Grace, On the Record, the Jay Thomas Show, Snapped, and numerous shows on Investigation Discovery, E!, A&E, XM Radio, America at Night, C-SPAN and various affiliates. Rother also works as a book doctor, writing/research coach and consultant, and teaches narrative non-fiction writing and digital journalism at UCSD Extension and San Diego Writers, Ink. Please visit her Website at CaitlinRother.com