Rebecca Zahau, the girlfriend of pharmaceutical executive Jonah Shacknai, committed suicide at his Coronado mansion and her death was not the result of a criminal act, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said at a news conference Friday.
Investigators based their conclusion in part on forensic evidence.
The evidence is "compelling" and points "persuasively" to suicide, Gore said.
Mary Zahau-Loehner, Rebecca's Zahau's sister, had told reporters Thursday night that the family does not believe Zahau took her own life.
Gore, backed by detectives and the medical examiner, explained how forensic evidence and interviews with people who talked to Zahau in the days before her death led to the overwhelming conclusion that she committed suicide and was not the victim of foul play.
Zahau may have been despondent over a sense of responsibility for the injury suffered by Shacknai's 6-year-old son Max during a time when Zahau was supposed to be watching him, authorities said. The boy's death was ruled an accident.
Zahau’s nude body was found in the courtyard of the historic Spreckels mansion on the morning of July 13. Her hands and feet had been tied, and a noose was around her neck and tied to a second-story balcony.
She had apparently jumped off a small table in the courtyard. Her lifeless body was found by Shacknai's brother, Adam, a guest at the mansion.
Almost immediately, a media-fanned “mystery” suggested that the 32-year-old Zahau may have been murdered.
But investigators said that it is not unknown for suicide victims to tie their hands and feet to avoid having second thoughts about dying.
The Sheriff's Department delayed making its determination until forensic tests were completed and interviews done to assess Zahau's mental state. Shacknai, his brother and his ex-wife were interviewed.
Two days before Zahau’s death, Max Shacknai suffered what proved to be a fatal fall when he tumbled down the staircase inside the Ocean Boulevard mansion.
The home was built in 1908 by John D. Spreckels, a major business and philanthropic figure in San Diego in the first third of the past century.
Jonah Shacknai , 54, was not at home when Zahau’s body was found by his brother. Shacknai and his ex-wife, Dina, were keeping a vigil at their son’s bedside.
Max Shacknai died July 17 at Rady Children’s Hospital, a week after the fall. He had never regained consciousness. His organs were donated for transplant.
“His loving, kind and vibrant spirit will forever be in our hearts and those whom he touched every day,” Shacknai said in an email announcing his son’s death.
Shacknai is chairman and chief executive of the firm he founded, Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp., based in Scottsdale, Ariz., a leader in skin care and beauty aid products. He is active in charitable organizations, including funding the Whispering Hope Ranch Foundation, which pairs special-needs children with abused, abandoned or injured animals.
Zahau, whose married name was Rebecca Nalepa, was an ophthalmic technician in the Phoenix area before quitting her job to spend more time with Shacknai and his children. After a divorce, she took back her maiden name.Shacknai, twice divorced, lives most of the year in the affluent community of Paradise Valley, Ariz., to be near his business. The Coronado house was considered a summer home.