SAN DIEGO (AP) — The 6-year-old son of a pharmaceutical company executive died Sunday, almost a week after falling down the stairs at his father’s historic mansion — the same house where his father’s girlfriend was found dead hanging nude from a balcony two days later, the boy’s parents said.

Max Shacknai died at Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego, Medicis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. chairman and chief executive Jonah Shacknai said in a statement along with ex-wife Dina Romano, the boy’s mother.

“With great sadness, Dina and I convey the tragic passing of our beloved son, Max (affectionately known as Maxie),” the statement issued through Medicis Pharmaceuticals said. “Despite heroic efforts on the part of paramedics and hospital staff, he was unable to recover from the injuries suffered early last week. His
loving, kind and vibrant spirit will be forever in our hearts and those whom he touched every day.”

On Monday, Max fell down the stairs at the historic Spreckels mansion in Coronado in what police called a tragic accident. He was not breathing and did not have a pulse when paramedics found him.

On Wednesday, officials said Shacknai’s 32-year-old girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau, was found dead hanging nude from a balcony at the mansion, her hands and feet bound. Shacknai’s brother, Adam, who was staying in the mansion guesthouse, called to report Zahau appeared to be dead, police said. Jonah Shacknai was not at home.

Sheriff’s Capt. Tim Curran has called the death “very bizarre.”

Sheriff’s investigators have not established any connection between the two deaths, and have not determined if Zahau was a crime victim and have made no arrests. They said they have not ruled out suicide.

The 27-room Spreckels mansion was built in 1908 in the wealthy seaside suburb of about 24,000 people on San Diego Bay. It is named for its original owner John D. Spreckels, who also owned the majestic Hotel del Coronado and two local newspapers, the San Diego Union and San Diego Tribune.

Coronado had just one homicide last year, and the police department asked the sheriff’s department to help with the investigation.

Jonah Shacknai, 54, founded Medicis, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has been chairman and CEO since 1988. The company’s products include acne treatments Solodyn and Ziana and facial wrinkle treatment Restylane.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (41)
  1. Shiggity42 says:

    She pushed the son, and the husband killed her.

    1. Kim says:

      That’s what I was thinking

    2. Barbi Winters says:

      That’s what I would (guess). Not pushed, but probably with him and he holds her responsible. I doubt she would set up her rope, bound herself and fling herself over the balcony………….

  2. John Taylor says:

    I smell a rat with this one. I hope that it’s only a coincidence.

  3. Lisa says:

    Very sad.

  4. reagen says:

    It could not have been a suicide if her hands and feet were bound, for God’s Sake! and Nude? Women don’t commit suicide in that manner, anyway. Investigators better be looking at the husband and his brother. Where are they from? Poor woman and little boy. That is beyond sad.

    1. Barbi Winters says:

      Where are they FROM? I’m all American and I resent that question. What’s the difference?

  5. Jumpy says:

    Hands and feet bound and they haven’t ruled out suicide? Sounds like a crack investigative team down there.

  6. Tek Soo Wong says:

    I guess money really cant buy you happiness. Wow.

    1. Shiggity says:

      It can buy you freedom though….

  7. Roro says:

    Suicide? Yeah, she got naked, tied her hands and feet together, then tied a rope around her neck, walked to the balcony, tied the end of the rope to the balcony, and jumped over. I wonder how much it cost to have the investigative team turn a blind eye to the ridiculous mechanics involved here….

  8. Alan Hart says:

    If it wasn’t for Bad, this guy wouldn’t have any luck at all.

  9. LeavingCali says:

    Dammn, OK. The guy gets on and makes a statement about how tragic it is his son had an ‘accident.’

    No mention of any tragedy involving a nude bound women dangling from your balcony, I’m just surprised this isn’t about another hollywood bigshotegomonster….

    1. Jeezus says:

      cause it didnt happen in that order. the statement was made when the boy was pushed likely, or after, and then days later she was found hanging. so they resurrected the quote from the days previous and inserted it here as reference to the whole story… in the movies : a flashback. It was restated here so that the reader would know the specs of the story to make their conclusions from there, but for you it just completely went over your head and you became fearful anyways.

      The wicked flee when none pursueth. that’s a quote, used in the same sort of way as the author in this story used one earlier that i just went on about. remember?

    2. Jeezus says:

      now that i actually read the story, hehe, maybe he did make mention or made it already when it happened even, but they just didn’t report on that part of it in this story as it wasn’t relevant to the latest news about the boy. so i still stand by my quote for you.

    3. Barbi Winters says:

      Thanks for that. I just literally shot coffee all over my desk. LOL……and I’m at my office.

    4. Barbi Winters says:

      I just literally spit coffee all over my desk……thanks for that. It’s a horrible story, but that sounds hysterical….and you’re so right. Oh, by the way………and ol whats-her-name. No, she hung 2 days after, so maybe it was before the “accident”. Hmmmm.

  10. rAn says:

    It is possible to ‘restrain’ your own hands behind your back without having to tie them. That would have been the last thing to do right before jumping. In my 10 year career of picking up dead bodies, i’ve seen it once. Maybe the girlfriend had something to do with the boy’s “accident” and took her own life rather then deal with the consequences.

    1. Jeezus says:

      thank you i thought i was the only one who could see how you could do that, as everyone here was saying it’s impossible which it isn’t if you think about it a little. get creative, roro and whoever.

    2. Barbi Winters says:

      why would she bind her hands???????

  11. Lisa Denise says:

    Has anyone thought that maybe the girlfiend saw someone push the little boy down the stairs and decided she was going to go to the police and the murderer decided to kill her to keep from getting caught?

  12. GOLDEN RULE says:

    Here’s my take on this…

    Rebecca Nalepa, 32, wanted the Family Fortune by killing Max Shacknai, 6 so her & Jonah Shacknai, 54, can have their own baby..

    Outrage by the boy’s death, boy’s Mother & Jonah paid Jonah’s brother(living in the guest house) to do the dirty work effin’ her up & killing her..

    Either Jonah’s brother did it or hired his own hitmen crew..

    They’re ALL involved in HER DEATH..



    1. Alma Ledon says:

      You might be on to something there…

  13. ILLEGALS says:

    Someone had to pay for the boy’s death!!

  14. rAn says:

    I’m still thinking she committed suicide.

    1. Scapegoat says:

      Jonah Shacknai? Is that you?

    2. Timothy McGarry says:

      Yeah, I mean, why the high drama with the balcony out the window and all? What, are they sending a message to all future girlfriends? I mean, if it’s not suicide, it’s weird- I guess richfolk weird.

      1. $$$$ Can Get You Outa Jail says:

        Some women don’t really care about your past. Give ’em some Drugs or show ’em the $$$$$ & it’s yours.

        Some women are more attracted to hardcore criminals.

  15. DECEMBER 21, 2012 says:






    1. Barbi Winters says:


  16. Esteban says:

    Obviously something’s going on here…..I can’t believe the mother thinks this was an accident… way…

  17. REALIST says:

    The girlfriend pushed the kid down the stairs, she either killed herself, or some one took care of her for doing what she did to the kid.

  18. "chemtrail monster" says:

    the house is haunted. a ghost killed them!!!

  19. John McPain says:

    Freakin’ ZONIES!!!

  20. theblackestguyyouknow says:

    comicon man who cares about rednecks killing eachother.

  21. Barbi Winters says:

    This is a sad, horrific story, which the investigators have turned into a joke. That’s the saddest part of all.

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