Twin sisters have been cleared of any involvement in the 2011 death of Rebecca Zahau, the girlfriend of an Arizona CEO whose son died in a Coronado, Calif., mansion in 2011.
An attorney for Zahau’s family announced Thursday that a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the two women has been dropped after evidence surfaced that exonerated them. A press release announcing the decision also confirmed that an insurance carrier for one of the plaintiffs made a payment to settle the case, even though neither of the sisters wanted to make a payment, according to attorneys.
Zahau’s death was ruled a suicide after she was found naked and hanging from a balcony at the historic Spreckles Mansion on Coronado. However, her family filed the suit against three people related to her boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, co-founder and former CEO of Scottsdale-based Medicis Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Valeant Phramaceuticals of New Jersey in 2012.
The defendants included Dina Shacknai of Paradise Valley, who is Jonah’s ex-wife, her twin sister Nina Romano, and Jonah Shaknai’s brother, Adam.
The lawsuit alleged they conspired to killed Zahau as retribution for the death of Shacknai’s 6-year-old son Max inside the same house just a few days earlier.
Two days before Zahau was found, the boy fell over the second-floor railing of the same mansion while he was in Zahau’s care. Max was in critical condition for three days before dying.
Zahau’s family has insisted since 2011 that she would never commit suicide. They believed Dina Shacknai, Nina Romano and Adam Shacknai conspired to murder Zahau in an act of revenge, according to the lawsuit.
Evidence showed to the Zahau’s family representatives that Dina Shacknai had been at the hospital, visiting her injured son during the time Zahau had died.
“Through multiple sources we have confirmed that Dina Shacknai was at Rady Children’s Hospital in the (pediatric ICU) with her son Maxie throughout the evening of Rebecca’s death and specifically at the time a neighbor heard a woman that we allege was Rebecca screaming for help,” said Keith Greer, an attorney representing the Zahau family, in a statement.
“The evidence also supports Nina Romano’s statements that she was not in any way involved in Rebecca’s death. Based on this evidence, we previously dismissed Nina Romano from the case and have now dismissed Dina Shacknai,” he said.
“We wish to apologize to Dina, Nina and their families for the stress and trauma this process has had on their lives, particularly in light of the tremendous pain they continue to endure due to the loss of their beloved son, nephew and grandchild Maxie,” he said.
Adam Shacknai, who was staying at the mansion at the time of Zahau’s death, remains a defendant in the lawsuit.
Greer and Romano’s lawyer, Darin Wessel, said in the press release that the decision to pay the family was made by Romano’s insurance carrier, and that the women never wanted to settle the case. Greer said neither Romano nor Dina Shacknai had offered payment themselves to settle.
In a prepared statement, Nina Romano said: “I pray that now both the Zahau family and my family can begin the process of attempting to heal our hearts from such tragic loss and try to find some level of peace while we begin the process of rebuilding our lives.”
Dina Shacknai said that the deaths of Max and Zahau both need to be investigated further.
“It is shocking to us that this (wrongful death) case was allowed to continue, against us for almost four years, in both State and Federal Court. My sister and I have suffered in every possible way personally, professionally and our overall health and well-being and we still do not have answers,” she said.
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