Mother of boy who died at mansion seeks new probe

AP News
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Posted: Aug 07, 2012 3:11 PM
Mother of boy who died at mansion seeks new probe

CORONADO, Calif. (AP) — The mother of a 6-year-old boy who died after falling down stairs at a California mansion wants to reopen the investigation into his death, which was ruled accidental.

Dina Shacknai and her representatives met with Coronado police and county medical examiner's staff last week and presented results from two hired experts that concluded the July 11, 2011, death of Max Shacknai was likely the result of an assault, U-T San Diego (http://bit.ly/NfFzrP ) reported Monday.

The information was being reviewed, police spokeswoman Lea Corbin said.

"Things just didn't add up to me, so I hired independent experts to review the findings," Shacknai said in a written statement. "Even though nothing will bring my only child Maxie back, I owe it to him, as his mother, to make sure the true facts of his death are known."

Scottsdale, Ariz., pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai is the father of the boy who plunged over a second-floor stairwell banister at Shacknai's mansion in San Diego County. The boy later died from brain injuries.

Investigators said the boy may have tripped while running, grabbed a chandelier, hit his back on the banister and fallen.

The private analysis was prepared by Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist from San Francisco, and Robert T. Bove Jr., described as an injury biomechanics expert in Philadelphia who performs accident reconstructions.

Melinek said in the written statement that Max's facial injuries were inconsistent with a fall, and it would be more accurate to describe his death as a homicide, meaning death at the hands of another.

Bove reported that Melinek proposed a scenario in which the boy was assaulted and "moved or was moved" over the railing, according to the press statement.

That scenario is consistent with the physical evidence, Bove said.

The analysis doesn't indicate whether the assault was accidental or who might have committed it.

Max was alone in the home with his father's girlfriend, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau, and her 13-year-old sister.

Two days after the fall, Zahau's nude, bound body was found hanging in the mansion. Investigators ruled her death a suicide and said she may have been distraught over Max's injuries. Her family is challenging the ruling.

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Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com