Drug company CEO's child dies from injuries

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 18, 2011 5:43 PM
Drug company CEO's child dies from injuries

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Four days after the girlfriend of a wealthy pharmaceutical executive was found hanged at his mansion near San Diego, his 6-year-old son has died from injuries suffered in an apparent stairway fall, police said on Monday.

Max Shacknai's death was first revealed in a joint statement released Sunday night by his father, Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp founder and CEO Jonah Shacknai, and his ex-wife, Dina Shacknai, the boy's mother.

Police in Coronado, the upscale island resort where Shacknai, 54, lived with his son and girlfriend, said only that the boy's death was under investigation.

The child was hospitalized in a medically induced coma a week ago, two days before his father's girlfriend, Rebecca Nalepa, 32, was found dead at the oceanside mansion.

Investigators have labeled Nalepa's death as suspicious, saying they ruled out neither suicide nor foul play.

"With great sadness, Dina and I convey the tragic passing of our beloved son, Max (affectionately known as Maxie)," Shacknai and his former spouse said in their statement.

"Despite heroic efforts on the part of paramedics and hospital staff, he was unable to recover from the injuries suffered early last week."

Authorities called to Shacknai's home on July 11 found the boy unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse after he suffered what they were told was a fall from a staircase, police said last week.

Police said Shacknai was not present at the time and that the only person home with the boy was Nalepa. Shacknai also was absent when his girlfriend's body was discovered two days later.

Shacknai's brother, Adam, who lived in a guest house on the property, told police he found Nalepa nude, her hands tied behind her back, hanging by her neck from a second-story courtyard balcony, before he cut her down and called for help, according to Captain Tim Curran of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department homicide squad.

He said detectives were questioning the two Shacknai brothers and the Medicis chief's ex-wife as witnesses and that all three were cooperating in the investigation.

Land records show Jonah Shacknai, whose Arizona-based company is maker of the acne treatment Solodyn and wrinkle-filler Restylane, purchased the 27-room house known as the Spreckels Mansion in October 2010.

(Additional reporting by Michele Gershberg; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)