Two months ago, Medicis Pharmaceutical ceo Jonah Shacknai suffered a double blow - his six-year-old son fell down the stairs and died at a hospital five days later. Two days later, his 32-year-old girlfriend was found hanging - naked, with her feet bound and wrists tied behind her back - in the courtyard of his California mansion from a rope tied to a bed in a second-story room (back story).
Since then, there has been nothing but speculation about what really happened in his Coronado, California home, creating quite a distraction. Even though the authorities have ruled out foul play in both deaths, the family of Rebecca Zahau has created a website to support their demand to have her case reopened (here is the website).
“Why would they say that? That she committed suicide? Our family is hurting. We’re a poor family. We can’t pay for investigators" her mother writes on the site. "...we know for sure, she wouldn’t ever kill herself. And she was very modest. It is our Asian way. She would never do a thing like that, and never without clothes on. But nobody will listen to us.”
And so Shacknai, who is angry the Zahua family insinuated he influenced the initial investigation that he threatened to file a lawsuit, has now written the California Attorney General to ask that her death be investigated. "...The unrelenting and often vicious speculation and innuendo in certain media outlets continue to bring further pain to everyone who has been touched by these tragic events.
"It is my hope that your review of Rebecca's death will serve the interests of justice by providing confidence, comfort and resolution not just to the families directly impacted by these tragedies, but also to the public at large, which has taken an interest in these highly unusual circumstances," the letter says.
One issue is a mysterious message that was painted on her bedroom door - 'she saved him can you save her' - before Zahau threw herself from the second floor. And the autopsy report that four hemorrhages between the scalp and skull on top of the head that were listed in the report may be inconsistent with the suicide theory, according to a forensic pathologist who spoke with CNN.
To what extent, if any, was her death related to the six-year-old? That remains unclear, although a CBS affiliate reports that her cell phone records confirm Zahau listened to voicemail on her cellphone for two minutes at 12:50 a.m. on July 13, about two hours before her estimated time of death. And police have said the message was that the Shacknai son was about to die (see this).
How might this episode affect Medicis? As Shacknai has noted, the events have become a distraction and, while the stock has largely recovered since the deaths first occurred, the ceo is now attempting to convince investors that he is focused on business. Of course, he may undermine that premise by filing a lawsuit. Either way, the Zahau family seems unwilling to go away quietly and Medicis investors and employees can expect their ceo to remain distracted a while longer.