Drug tycoon seeks review of girlfriend's death

AP News
Posted: Sep 20, 2011 8:07 PM
Drug tycoon seeks review of girlfriend's death

An Arizona pharmaceutical tycoon asked California's attorney general to review findings that his girlfriend killed herself by tying her wrists and ankles and hanging herself naked from a balcony of his historic mansion, according to a letter released Tuesday.

Jonah Shacknai said he hoped the review would give "confidence, comfort and resolution" to those questioning whether Rebecca Zahau committed suicide July 13 at his Coronado mansion near San Diego.

Shacknai, 54, said he had no reason to doubt findings by San Diego County authorities that his 32-year-old girlfriend killed herself two days after Shacknai's 6-year-old son accidentally fell while under her watch and died days later.

"I believe the only way to achieve some dignified resolution for everyone who has been touched by the horrible events of this summer will be through the efforts of your office," Shacknai wrote in a letter dated Monday and released by his public relations firm Tuesday.

Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, declined to comment beyond acknowledging the letter had been received.

Investigators said Zahau's DNA was found on a knife, rope and bedposts, along with her footprints on a dusty balcony.

They believe Zahau tied rope around her ankles and loosely tied her wrists together in front of her before slipping one hand out, putting her hands behind her back and reinserting her wrist into the loop of rope. She apparently hung herself by climbing over a balcony with a rope tied around her neck and attached to a bedpost.

Zahau's family immediately questioned the findings disclosed by authorities Sept. 2 at a 1 1/2-hour news conference that included a video reenactment of how they think she bound her wrists. Shacknai acknowledged in his letter that the circumstances of Zahau's death were "undeniably strange."

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore defended his department's findings Tuesday but said he supported Shacknai's request and would cooperate with the attorney general if she reviews the case.

Zahau family attorney Anne Bremner declined to comment.

Shacknai is founder and chief executive of Medicis Pharmaceuticals Corp., a company based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that makes acne treatments Solodyn and Ziana, and facial wrinkle treatment Restylane and Dysport, a competitor of Botox.

He owns the 27-room waterfront mansion in Coronado, where he lived during the summer with Zahau, his girlfriend of two years. His son was from a marriage that ended in divorce in 2008.