Zahau family sues Sheriff Gore seeking evidence in death - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Zahau family sues Sheriff Gore seeking evidence in Coronado death

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The Zahau family released new evidence photos to News 8 The Zahau family released new evidence photos to News 8
Evidence photo of message on bedroom door:  "She saved him can you save her" Evidence photo of message on bedroom door: "She saved him can you save her"
The family of Rebecca Zahau talks to the media Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The family of Rebecca Zahau talks to the media Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

***UPDATED REPORT***

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Nearly two years after her death, the family and estate of Rebecca Zahau filed a lawsuit Wednesday against San Diego County authorities, seeking records and other evidence in their quest to prove that the Coronado woman died as a result of a homicide and not suicide, as investigators concluded.

Zahau, 32, was found hanging outside her boyfriend's historic Spreckels mansion on July 13, 2011.

An attorney for the Zahau family, Marty Rudoy, said the suit was filed against San Diego County, Sheriff Bill Gore and Medical Examiner Dr. Glenn Wagner "to get further information regarding the death of Rebecca Zahau, so that we can bring closure and peace to the Zahau family."

Among the items being sought via the lawsuit is a complete copy of the original 911 call, Rudoy said. The copy of the call turned over to the family contained an unexplained eight-second gap, the attorney said.

The suit also seeks information related to the death of the 6-year-old son of Zahau's boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai. Max Shacknai died as a result of an accidental fall over a stairway railing at the mansion in Coronado two days before Zahau took her own life, authorities concluded.

"We think the two deaths are intrinsically related, in that, if nothing happened to Max, then nobody would have done anything to Rebecca," Rudoy said.

Another attorney working for the Zahau family, David Fleck, said one goal of the lawsuit is to undercover any evidence that Zahau killed herself.

"We're not just looking for compelling evidence of suicide, we're looking for any evidence of suicide," Fleck told reporters.

Without naming names, Fleck alleged "there were several people that should have been in jail" for murder the day Zahau's nude and bound body was found hanging from a balcony.

A few months after Zahau's death, Gore said investigators were convinced that Zahau took her own life based on the physical evidence, medical information and witness statements.

Zahau's younger sister, Snowem, said her older sibling's life was cut short way too soon.

"We will not stop pursuing or fighting for justice to find the truth, and we hope that soon the truth will be revealed," she said.

***ORIGINAL REPORT***

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) -- The family of Rebecca Zahau -- the woman who died mysteriously at the Spreckels mansion in Coronado almost two years ago – plans to file a lawsuit Wednesday seeking a court order mandating release of evidence in the case.

The lawsuit, obtained by News 8, names San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and San Diego County Chief Medical Examiner Glenn Wager as defendants.

It seeks the release of evidence in the case, including missing crime scene photographs, DNA evidence, computer data, camera photos, surveillance video, cell phone data, ropes, knives, paintbrushes, and the bedroom door with a painted message on it that read, "She saved him can you save her."

The Sheriff's Department had previously released some evidence in the case, which was investigated by its homicide division and then closed. The department did not immediately respond to a News 8 request for comment.

The Zahau family attorneys plan a news conference Wednesday morning to officially announce the filing of the lawsuit, as well as the online posting of a new video that includes unreleased evidence photos from the Coronado mansion where Zahau was found dead in July 2011.

"Words cannot explain the pain and the emptiness I and the family are going through," said Zahau's sister, Snowem Horwath, in the video obtained by News 8.

"This is where we need the public's help. This is where we need your help and your support so that we can raise enough money to find justice for my sister's death," Horwath said.

The video will be posted Wednesday morning on the fundraising web site indiegogo.com, according to Marty Rudoy, the family's attorney.

"This is the first time in history that people like you through crowd-funding can help solve a crime," said Rudoy in the video.

Zahau's death in was ruled a suicide by hanging by the Sheriff's Department and the Medical Examiner, but the Zahau family believes she was murdered.

The online video includes graphic evidence photos of the body of Zahau, 32, taken as she lay naked and bound in the courtyard of the mansion.

Zahau lived part time in the mansion with her boyfriend, millionaire Jonah Shacknai, 54. She died days after Shacknai's 6-year-old son, Max, fell down the stairs and later died.

Zahau family co-counsel David Fleck also appears in the online video.

"As a former criminal prosecutor, after a year a half, I'm still waiting for evidence of suicide," said Fleck. "Rebecca was found bound, gagged, and naked. Her hands were tied behind her back. Her ankles and wrists were bound with very complex knots. A noose was over her neck and hair."

The Zahau family hopes to raise money on Indiegogo.com to help pay for legal fees associated with the lawsuit and an independent investigation.

In the video, Rudoy also announced that the California Attorney General has denied the Zahau family's appeal to reopen the case.

"We've been to police, the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and the Attorney General; but we haven't been successful in getting the case re-opened," said Rudoy.

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