Lawyer: Family confident new autopsy will rule out suicide - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Lawyer: Family confident new autopsy will rule out suicide

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A second autopsy is scheduled for Friday on the remains of a woman found hanged at a historic Coronado estate last summer in what was ruled a suicide.

At the behest of family members who dispute the ruling, the body of Rebecca Zahau was exhumed this week from a cemetery in St. Joseph, Mo., and transported to Pennsylvania for the independent postmortem examination, said Dr. Cyril Wecht, the high-profile forensic pathologist who will lead the examination. He said his findings should be available in about 10 days.

The 80-year-old pathologist, who gained fame through a series of highly publicized forensic reviews of the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and Anna Nicole Smith, has speculated that local authorities might have "rushed to judgment" in concluding that the 32-year-old Zahau killed herself at the Spreckels Mansion.

Early on the morning of July 13, her nude body was found hanging from a balcony railing at the 103-year-old mansion, which is owned by her multimillionaire boyfriend, pharmaceutical tycoon Jonah Shacknai. Her hands were tied behind her back, and her ankles had been bound as well, according to homicide investigators.

After a seven-week investigation, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and Medical Examiner's Office agreed that all evidence in the case pointed to suicide, though one with some novel aspects. Zahau's relatives have refused to accept the ruling, saying she was a religious woman who viewedsuicide a sin.

Authorities have speculated that Zahau may have killed herself out of grief and guilt over the accidental death of Shacknai's 6-year-old son, Max.

Two days before her death, Max was mortally injured in a fall over a stairway railing in his father's 27-room ocean-front manor while under her care.

Zahua's family plans to discuss Wecht's findings with television talk show host Phil McGraw next month, her sister, Snowem Horwath, told a local news source.

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