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Family attorney releases 200 pages of Zahau's phone records

An attorney representing the family of Rebecca Zahau has released more than 200 pages of phone records to News 8

CORONADO, Calif. (CBS8) – An attorney representing the family of Rebecca Zahau has released more than 200 pages of phone records to News 8; records that were not obtained by law enforcement during its investigation of Zahau's death at the Spreckels mansion.

The records document the final voice calls and text messages that went back and forth to Rebecca Zahau in the hours before she was found hanging from a second-story balcony at the Coronado mansion on July 13.

The new call logs reveal that after Zahau's death, San Diego County Sheriff's homicide detectives waited more than a month to power up her cell phone and check for voicemails.

Homicide Lt. Larry Nesbit said this week that detectives decided to wait to manually examine the phone, because they were concerned that operating the Samsung Focus Window Phone might overwrite evidence in the device's memory.

The smart phone is a relatively new model and detectives initially were unable to obtain software to forensically examine the phone, Lt. Nesbit said.

On August 15, a detective finally powered up the phone and discovered that a voicemail left by Zahau's boyfriend, Medicis Pharmaceutical CEO Jonah Shacknai, had been deleted.

"Once we found out that the technology did not exist to forensically examine the phone, the detective manually opened the phone and learned that the message had been deleted; and she knew from prior case experience that if the message had been deleted from the phone, it would not have been stored on an AT&T server," Nesbit said.

Investigators have said the voicemail may have caused Zahau to commit suicide, because the message allegedly informed her that Shacknai's 6-year-old son, Max, would not survive injuries he suffered during a July 11 fall at the mansion while under Zahau's care.

The cell phone records confirm someone listened to Zahau's voicemail for two minutes at 12:50 a.m. on July 13, about two hours before her estimated time of death.

Adam Shacknai, the brother of Zahau's boyfriend, called 911 later that morning at 6:48 a.m. to report Zahau was hanging nude from the balcony at the mansion. She was gagged with her hands and feet bound.

The phone records show a flurry of text messages and phone calls in the 24 hours prior to Zahau's hanging; including 34 messages and calls to and from the phone of Jonah Shacknai; 20 contacts with her sister Mary Zahau-Loehner; 10 calls or texts involving Adam Shacknai; and 7 contacts with a phone owned by Jonah Shacknai's friend, Phoenix-based dermatologist Dr. Howard Luber.

There were three text messages and one phone call – all on July 12 – from phones registered to Jonah's father and step mother, Gideon and Marcelle Shacknai, who live in New York State.

One final text message came into Zahau's phone at 10:41 p.m. on July 12 from Jonah Shacknai's ex sister-in-law, Nina Romano; the twin sister of Max's mother Dina Shacknai.

Romano had traveled to San Diego to support the family and Rebecca had picked up Romano at a San Diego airport the afternoon following Max's fall.

Contacted by News 8, Romano said she sent the text message to ask if she could come by the mansion.

"I just wanted to talk to her about the accident," Romano said. "And so I sent her a text message that said, ‘Hey are you around? I'd like to come by,' and I never heard from her. She never responded to me."

Romano recalled sending the text around 9:30 p.m. and questioned the 10:41 p.m. time stamp on the AT&T call log.

The phone logs revealed five calls on July 11 and one call on July 12 from Coronado police detective Thomas Adkins, who was investigating Max Shacknai's fall.  (More details of Detective Adkins' investigation are contained in a search warrant that was unsealed by San Diego Superior Court Judge David Danielsen at the request of News 8 and other media outlets).

News 8 investigated the listings on Zahau's cell phone logs within 48 hours of her death and found phone numbers linked to the following individuals:

- Jonah Shacknai, Rebecca's boyfriend
- Mary Zahau-Loehner, Rebecca's sister
- Adam Shacknai, Jonah's brother
- Dr. Howard Luber, Jonah's friend
- Gideon & Marcelle Shacknai, Jonah's father & step-mother
- Xena Zahau, Rebecca's sister
- Nina Romano, Jonah's ex sister-in-law
- Det. Thomas Adkins, Coronado Police detective
- Snowem Horwath, Rebecca's sister
- Caroline Niles, Coronado, Calif.
- Valerie Flores, Medicis employee
- Coronado Bay Urgent Care (treated Xena Zahau for leg injury)
- Camp Diggity Dogs, dog daycare facility

The San Diego County Medical Examiner ruled Zahau's death a suicide on Sept. 2 and the Sheriff's department has closed its death investigation.  None of the individuals listed above have been named as suspects.

The Sheriff's department recently acquired new software to forensically examine Zahau's cell phone. If the examination leads to new information that is relevant to the case the investigation could be re-opened.

The Zahau family attorney initially released just two pages of the phone records last week. On Thursday of this week, at the request of News 8, Seattle-based attorney Anne Bremner provided the entire phone bills, which cover July and August 2011.

The bills also included logs for two other cell phone numbers linked to Zahau's AT&T wireless plan, which were cell phones used by her teenage sister and brother.

Note: This report has been updated from its original version.

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