Deadly New Accusations: A Murder Mystery?
June 27, 2013
Two mysterious deaths within days of each other, and questions loom about both, pitting two families against each other: First, 6-year-old Max Schacknai fell over a second-story banister, leaving him on life support, and tragically, he died three days later. Two days after his fall, his father's girlfriend, Rebecca Zahau — who was caring for the boy at the time of the accident — was found hanging, naked and bound. Authorities ruled Max's death an accident and Rebecca's a suicide, but both families aren’t convinced of the determinations and want the investigations reopened. Max's mother, Dina, says she has evidence that proves her son might have been the victim of a homicide. Forensic pathologists Judy Melinek and Cyril Wecht weigh in. Could Rebecca have contributed to Max's death? Rebecca's sister, Mary, and brother-in-law, Doug, say there's no way Rebecca would ever hurt Max or take her own life. Hear why they believe the two deaths are related.
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A Shocking Twist to a Bizarre MysteryDina Shacknai, Max's mother, says she had trust issues with Rebecca Zahau from the time she met her. "She neglected to share very important information with me, such as her legal name. She left out she was married and the fact that she had a shoplifting arrest," Dina says. "I began to think Rebecca had issues with impulse control.”
Because of her uneasy feeling about Rebecca, Dina says that she asked Max's father, Jonah, to put some precautions in place when Max was in his care: Rebecca would not take Max across state lines by herself, she would not attend Max's school events, and neither she nor a member of her family would be alone with Max. When Dina learned of Rebecca's suicide, she says, "I started to wonder, What is it that she knew? Did she know something that I didn’t know?"
Dina says that she wasn't convinced that her son's death was an accident. "Things didn’t add up. I believed there was more to it,” she shares. "I decided to pursue a different route, to find the truth wherever that would lead. The findings presented to me from these experts, after nine months of methodical work, was the worst outcome that I could have imagined; that there was an assault scenario, and it was a homicide, which means death at the hands of another, which means the last face [Max] saw was the person who assaulted him," Dina reveals. "Based on evidence, Rebecca had direct involvement in Max’s death.”
Dr. Melinek adds that she believes the scene of the accident wasn’t properly investigated. “When Max fell, it was initially assumed to be an accident. It was only when he came to the hospital did the doctors at the hospital say, ‘This is too much injury. It doesn’t match up.’ The doctors at the hospital blew the whistle and said, ‘We’re going to call Child Protective Services.’ I wasn’t the first one to raise concerns; they were,” she explains.
Rebecca's sister, Mary, and her husband, Doug, say Rebecca would have never committed suicide and that her death wasn't given a fair investigation. They also say there's no way Rebecca would have hurt Max.
“To hear Dina get on TV and say things about my sister infuriates us," says Mary. "We all know what she’s saying is not true. It’s like her taking a dagger and stabbing it in our hearts, as she stands there and talks about my sister, who cannot defend herself. She was brutally murdered for what happened to Max.”
“Becky treated Max like he was her own son,” says Doug. “Becky did not assault Max. For Dina to say that, it makes no sense. If there was an assault scenario, she should have some type of injury on her hands.”
Doug also believes that Dina knows more about Rebecca's death than she's admitting. "She may not know directly, but there’s something in Dina that would benefit us, to find out who killed Becky,” he says.