Will police reopen the investigation into Rebecca Zahau’s 2011 death, now that a California jury has found her boyfriend’s brother was responsible?
Criminal charges were never filed in this case. In a press release obtained by PEOPLE, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department says it will look at any new evidence in the case, but says it “stands by the findings of the Medical Examiner’s Office and our investigators,” which determined Zahau committed suicide.
The statement notes that the department’s conclusions “were supported by forensic evidence and medical examinations.”
“We are always open to reviewing any evidence that could impact our conclusions,” the department said. “Additionally, we are also willing to meet with the Zahau Family to look at any new evidence that came out of the civil trial.”
Not long after her lifeless, naked body was found hanging from the second-floor balcony of her boyfriend’s Coronado mansion, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department concluded that Zahau — whose hands were tied behind her back — committed suicide.
She was found by Adam Shacknai, the brother of Zahau’s millionaire boyfriend Jonah Shacknai, a pharmaceuticals tycoon.
Rebecca Zahau and Adam Shacknai
On Wednesday, a civil jury in San Diego awarded Zahau’s family $5 million in damages after they found Adam Shacknai responsible for her death.
Zahau family’s lawyer argued that Shacknai had sexually assaulted, then killed her before staging her death to look like a suicide. He will also have to pay an additional $167,000 to the Zahau family for losing the financial support that she could have given to her mother and siblings.
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After the verdict, the family’s attorney told reporters they were going to petition the sheriff’s department to “reopen the case to declassify it as a suicide and reclassify it as an open investigation,” ABC News reports.
Rebecca Zahau and Jonah Shacknai
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Adam Shacknai’s defense attorney Dan Webb said, “We were absolutely astonished by the jury’s outrageous verdict in this case, and plan to appeal. This lawsuit was frivolous and reckless from the very beginning, and never should have been allowed to proceed to trial.”
In a February statement obtained by PEOPLE, Webb said, “Multiple law enforcement agencies conducted thorough investigations and concluded that Rebecca Zahau took her own life. There is no credible evidence that Adam Shacknai played any role in this tragedy other than being in the awful position of discovering Ms. Zahau’s body and immediately calling 911.”
Zahau’s body was discovered just hours after she accessed her voicemail, on which was a message about the grave condition of Jonah Shacknai’s 6-year-old son Max, who was in the hospital after falling down a staircase in the home. Zahau was the only adult present at the home during the accident. The child later died from his injuries.
• With reporting by CHRISTINE PELISEK