Mansion Death Lawsuit: Closing arguments wrap up, case goes to - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Mansion Death Lawsuit: Closing arguments wrap up, case goes to jury

Posted: Updated:

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) - After more than four weeks of testimony, closing arguments wrapped up Tuesday in the wrongful death suit of Rebecca Zahau.

Just before 11:30 a.m. the judge gave instructions to the jury and turned the case over to them for deliberations.

A medical examiner ruled Rebecca Zahau's death a suicide in 2011, but her family believes that Adam Shacknai - the only other person at home at the time of her death - killed her and staged it to look like a suicide.

The first witness to testify following opening statements in February was Zahau's sister Mary Zahau-Loehner and her mother Pari Zahau also took the stand early in the trial; the two are plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit.

Related: Mansion Death Lawsuit: Jonah Shacknai takes the stand

Adam Shacknai is the brother of Zahau's boyfriend Jonah Shacknai.

A day prior to her death, Zahau was caring for Jonah Shacknai's 6-year-old son when he fell from a second-story landing at Jonah's Coronado mansion, suffering an injury that caused his death five days later.

In court Monday, a nude mannequin meant to represent 32-year-old Zahau was used during closing arguments as Keith Greer - the attorney for Zahau's family - played portions of the 911 call made by Adam Shacknai back in 2011.

In the packed courtroom Monday, Greer summed up the reasons the jury should conclude Shacknai killed Zahau.

Related: Packed courtroom for Zahau closing arguments

He said Adam first sexually assaulted Rebecca then strangled her and then hit her on the head four times. Zahau's body was found hanging from a balcony, where authorities say she committed suicide. But Greer says Shacknai staged it and made up a story to cover up her murder.

At times Monday, Rebecca Zahau's mother grew emotional.

During the month-long trial, jurors heard from several witnesses including a handwriting expert who testified the handwriting of a cryptic message left scrawled on a door likely matches Adam Shacknai's.

Related: Zahau Civil Trial: Mother testifies in wrongful death suit.

But Shacknai's attorney Dan Webb on Monday said there is no evidence his client did anything.

Webb says Shacknai's DNA and fingerprints were not found on any pieces of evidence and no witnesses testified they saw Shaknai do anything to Zahau.

"Adam Shacknai doesn’t have to prove anything in this case," said Webb. "The burden of proof under the law is always on the plaintiff."

When closing arguments resumed Tuesday, Webb began by presenting evidence from a rape kit performed on Rebecca Zahau's body.

Webb said the test and an autopsy both showed no signs of a sexual assault.

Adam Shacknai's lawyer then moved on to the cryptic message written on a door in the home. Webb said the evidence showed that Rebecca wrote the message.

Next Webb discussed Rebecca's death certificate where the cause of death is listed as "hanging" and the manner of death is listed as "suicide."

Webb went on to discuss the law enforcement investigation following Rebecca's death and stated that authorities did not find anything that would indicate Adam was involved in her death.

The next topic of discussion in the closing arguments was Rebecca's state of mind and if she were capable of taking her own life.

Webb presented several reasons Rebecca may have been distraught enough to harm herself including her fear of losing Jonah and his financial support; her conflicts with Jonah's older children; and the impact of Max's accident on Rebecca.

Webb went on to discuss the knots used to tie Rebecca's hands and feet and referred to a witness who testified that they were simple knots; not nautical types of knots that would indicate Adam Shacknai tied them.

Next Webb talked about Rebecca's injuries and stated that they didn't indicate any manual strangulation.

Webb suggested wounds to Rebecca's head could have been sustained as she went over the railing, based on witness testimony.

Webb went on to say that the plaintiffs in the case and their lawyer Keith Greer have changed their theory several times during the lawsuit trial.

RELATED: Defense questions Zahau handwriting expert

Greer then had an opportunity to make final arguments, which lasted only a few minutes.

The lawyer for the Zahau family said it "didn't matter" exactly how Rebecca died only that she was murdered, and Adam Shacknai was there. Greer stated Adam had both motive and opportunity.

In closing, Greer asked the jury to hold Adam "accountable for what he did to Rebecca Zahau."

The judge in the lawsuit trial then provided instructions to the jury before they were dismissed for lunch followed by deliberations.

The jury did not reach a verdict on Tuesday, so they will resume deliberations at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday.


Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 KFMB-TV. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.