Experts: Calif. Boy's Strange Death Was Homicide

Max Shacknai's mom calls for probe to be reopened
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2012 1:13 AM CDT
Updated Aug 8, 2012 1:22 AM CDT
Experts: Calif. Boy's Strange Death Was Homicide
Rebecca Zahau was found hanged, her hands and feet bound, just days after Max suffered fatal injuries.   (AP Photo/Horizon Eye Specialists & Lasik Center, Dwight Smith)

The bizarre death of a California boy who suffered fatal injuries days before his dad's live-in girlfriend was found hanged last year was a homicide, forensics experts have declared. The death of Max Shacknai, 6, raised suspicions. But San Diego County investigators determined it was accidental, and that Max suffered a major head injury after he fell over a railing and down the stairs while he was home alone with the girlfriend of his multimillionaire dad, Jonah Shacknai. Two days later, Shacknai's girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau, was found hanged, nude, in the same Coronado mansion, her hands and feet bound. Her death was declared a suicide. But Max's suspicious mom hired San Francisco-based forensics pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek and injury biomechanics expert Dr. Robert Bove to review the case, reports NBC. Both concluded that Max was likely beaten, and then was either forced over the railing, or jumped or fell during a desperate attempt to escape his assailant.

"I can't imagine anyone in the world wanting to harm Maxie," Dina told Fox News. "He was the most sweet, loving and gentle boy." Now she's calling for the case to be reopened. "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." Police are examining Melinek's findings. Zahau's parents, backed by Jonah Shacknai, called last year on police and state officials to reexamine her death. (More Max Shacknai stories.)

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