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Case 3:13-cv-01624-W-NLS

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C. Keith Greer, Esq. (State Bar No. 135537) (SPACE BELOW FOR FILING STAMP ONLY) GREER & ASSOCIATES, A.P.C.

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17150 Via Del Campo, Suite 100 San Diego, California 92127

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Telephone: (858) 613-6677 Facsimile: (858) 613-6680

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Frederick Gaston Esq. (State Bar No. 231179)

 

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GASTON & GASTON, A.P.L.C. 1010 Second Avenue, 24 th Floor

San Diego, CA 92101 Telephone: (619) 398-1882

(619) 398-1887

Facsimile:

 

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Attorneys for Plaintiffs, ROBERT ZAHAU, deceased,

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ESTATE OF ROBERT ZAHAU, MARY ZAHAU-LOEHNER,

and PARI Z. ZAHAU

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

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SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

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ROBERT ZAHAU, deceased, through his personal representative, MARY

ZAHAU-LOEHNER; ESTATE OF ROBERT ZAHAU, represented by

MARY ZAHAU-LOEHNER, an individual; and PARI Z. ZAHAU, an

individual,

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Case No. 13-CV-1624-W-NLS

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SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

FOR WRONGFUL DEATH

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Plaintiffs,

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JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

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vs.

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ADAM SHACKNAI, an individual; DINA SHACKNAI, an individual; and

NINA ROMANO, an individual,

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Defendants.

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ROBERT ZAHAU, deceased, through his personal representative, MARY

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ZAHAU-LOEHNER; ESTATE OF ROBERT ZAHAU, represented by MARY

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ZAHAU-LOEHNER, an individual; and PARI Z. ZAHAU, an individual

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(hereinafter collectively referred to as “Plaintiffs”), complain of Defendants

SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR WRONGFUL DEATH

   

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ADAM SHACKNAI, an individual; DINA SHACKNAI, an individual; and NINA

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ROMANO, an individual, on information and belief as follows:

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JURISDICTION AND VENUE

 

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1.

This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case

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pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 based on the diversity of the parties and that the

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amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

 

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2.

The acts and omissions complained of herein occurred in Coronado,

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California and therefore the proper venue for this action is the Southern District of

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California in San Diego, California.

 

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DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

 

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3. Plaintiffs demand a jury trial.

 

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IDENTIFICATION OF THE PARTIES

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4. Plaintiff, PARI Z. ZAHAU (“PARI”) is the mother and only surviving

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parent of REBECCA ZAHAU (“REBECCA” or “DECEDENT”), deceased. PARI

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is also the surviving spouse of ROBERT ZAHAU, the father of REBECCA, who

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passed away on July 9, 2013. PARI is, and at all times herein mentioned was, a

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citizen of Buchanan County, State of Missouri.

 

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5.

Plaintiff, MARY ZAHAU-LOEHNER (“MARY”) is the sister of

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REBECCA ZAHAU, deceased, and the daughter and personal representative of

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ROBERT ZAHAU, deceased, and is acting as the executor of the ESTATE

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ROBERT ZAHAU. Per Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 377.30, MARY, as the personal

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representative for ROBERT ZAHAU, has standing to bring ROBERT’s wrongful

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death action. MARY is, and at all times herein mentioned was, a citizen of

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Buchanan County, State of Missouri.

 

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6.

Plaintiff, ROBERT ZAHAU, deceased, (“ROBERT”) will be

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represented by Plaintiff MARY, as personal representative. ROBERT died intestate

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on July 9, 2013. At the time of his death and at all times herein mentioned herein,

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ROBERT ZAHAU was a citizen of Buchanan County, State of Missouri. Pursuant

 

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to Revised Statutes of Missouri, Section 474.010, PARI, his surviving spouse, is

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ROBERT’s sole heir.

 

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Defendant, ADAM SHACKNAI (“ADAM”) is, and at all times

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mentioned in this Complaint was, a citizen of Shelby County, State of Tennessee.

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Defendant, DINA SHACKNAI (“DINA”) is, and at all times mentioned

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in this Complaint was, a citizen of Maricopa County, State of Arizona.

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Defendant, NINA ROMANO (“NINA”) is, and at all times mentioned

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in this Complaint was, a citizen of San Joaquin County, State of California.

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GENERAL ALLEGATIONS/ STATEMENT OF FACTS

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On or around the morning of July 13, 2011, Defendants ADAM, DINA

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and NINA, and each of them, conspired to plan, and did in fact, enter into a

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common scheme of conduct with the intent to murder REBECCA in Coronado,

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California, and did in fact, murder REBECCA by each of them personally

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committing one or more of the following acts in furtherance of the common scheme

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and conspiracy:

 

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(a)

striking REBECCA on the head multiple times with a blunt instrument;

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(b)

physically restraining her;

 

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(c)

further restraining her by binding her legs with tape;

 

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(d)

gagging her;

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(e)

binding her hands behind her back with rope;

 

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(f)

binding her ankles together with rope;

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(g)

removing the previously placed tape from her legs;

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(h)

strangling her to the point of unconsciousness or death;

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(i)

making and placing a rope noose around her neck;

 

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(j)

tying the other end of the rope leading to the noose to a bed;

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(k)

carrying her to the adjacent balcony and pushing her over the railing of

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the balcony causing her to fall and, if she was still alive at that time, to then

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die by asphyxiation.

 
 

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(l) during the course of the conspiracy to murder REBECCA, each of the

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Defendants also kept watch to avoid detection and removed evidence of the

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acts which they committed, including wiping down objects they had touched

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in order to remove DNA and finger prints; and

 

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(m) as a further ploy to cover up their wrongdoing, and in furtherance of their

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common scheme, Defendants painted the following words on the inside of

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door near the balcony where she was left hanging:

 

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SHE SAVED HIM CAN YOU SAVE HER

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On the morning of July 13, 2011, REBECCA was found dead, naked,

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bound and gagged, with a rope noose around her neck. Her cause of death was

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asphyxiation, which was caused by either manual strangulation before she was

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hanged, or from being hanged with a rope noose around her neck from the second

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story deck of the Coronado vacation home at which she was staying. The Coroner

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for the County of San Diego determined that she died on that date.

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12. Each of the Defendants named herein were present at the location where

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the murder of REBECCA occurred and all of them actively participated in the

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planning, implementation, execution and subsequent concealment of the scheme to

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murder REBECCA. Because the only individuals who know the true facts and

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sequence of events with absolute certainty are the decedent REBECCA and the

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Defendants themselves, the allegations made herein are made on information and

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belief based on the evidence that has been uncovered to date. Plaintiffs intend to

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seek leave to amend the Complaint as additional facts are developed and uncovered

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during the course of discovery.

 

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ALLEGATIONS OF SPECIFIC ACTS

 

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ATTRIBUTED TO EACH DEFENDANT

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Due to DINA’s prior incidents of confronting and threatening

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DECEDENT, DINA’s prior history of being unable to control her anger, her

 

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ridiculing and publicly demeaning the DECEDENT for allegedly causing harm and

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the eventual death of DINA’s six-year-old son, Maxfield, as well as her extreme

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jealousy over the DECEDENT’s relationship with her ex-husband, Jonah Shacknai,

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Plaintiffs allege, based in further part on an eye witness report placing DINA at the

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1040 Ocean Boulevard residence the evening of the murder, that on the evening of

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July 12, 2011, DINA aggressively confronted the DECEDENT at the Ocean

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Boulevard residence, along with her sister, NINA. This confrontation arose from an

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accident the prior day when DINA’s son Maxfield fell over a second floor railing at

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the Ocean Boulevard residence, causing him brain damage and eventually his death

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on July 16, 2011. DECEDENT was babysitting Maxfield at the time of the fall.

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Plaintiffs allege, based in part on the mud found on DECEDENT’s feet

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and four subgaleal hemorrhages on the back right side of her head, that in response

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to the aggressive confrontation from Defendants DINA and NINA, DECEDENT,

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fearing for her safety, attempted to flee the residence. However, before DECEDENT

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could evade her attackers, she was struck four times on the back of the head with a

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blunt object by DINA, rendering her unconscious. Plaintiffs believe that at this time,

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ADAM, who had taken an Ambien earlier in the evening and was sleeping in the

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guest house at the residence, was awakened by the commotion and came to the

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scene.

 

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15.

Once confronted with the reality that DECEDENT would eventually

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regain consciousness, and thereafter probably disclose information about this

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incident and possibly other information of a personal nature that could cause public

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humiliation and embarrassment to Defendants and Jonah Shacknai (i.e., the ex-

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husband of DINA, father of Maxfield, brother of ADAM and the boyfriend of the

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DECEDENT), the Defendants entered in to a conspiracy and common scheme to

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murder the DECEDENT and hide their involvement.

 

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Due to the lack of markings on her body evidencing her being dragged

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back into the house, Plaintiffs allege that ADAM carried the DECEDENT back into

 

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Case 3:13-cv-01624-W-NLS

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the house. Based on the facts that DECEDENT was found naked and the clothing

she was wearing on that date was not found at the scene of the murder, Plaintiffs

allege that once inside the residence, the Defendants stripped off her clothing. Based

on the tape residue found on DECEDENT’s legs, and the fact that no tape with

similar adhesive was found at the scene, Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants first

restrained DECEDENT with tape, and gagged her, while they were devising and

planning the rest of the scheme, and later removed the tape from the scene.

17. Thereafter, the Defendants contrived an elaborate scheme to murder

REBECCA and conceal their involvement. DINA previously resided in the

residence, and thus was familiar with where to find items necessary to further the

scheme, including, inter alia, the ski rope used to bind and hang the DECEDENT.

18. The final scheme agreed to that evening by the Defendants involved

binding DECEDENT’s hands (behind her back) and ankles with rope they found at

the residence. Plaintiffs allege that based on the knots having nautical qualities and

ADAM being a tug boat captain with experience tying nautical knots, that ADAM

bound the DECEDENT. Plaintiffs further base this allegation on the fact that the

ropes had the same black paint residue found on DECEDENT’s nipples, thus

implicating the person who tied the knots as the person who also pinched the

Decedent’s nipples, and that ADAM had admitted to masturbating to pornography

on his cell phone that evening, the further inference being that the two instances of

sexual behavior are consistent with ADAM’s state of mind that evening. The

Defendants also placed a blue t-shirt around her neck and stuffed it in her mouth,

using it as a gag to both muffle her screams and cover up any marks that would

suggest murder. Based on the type of injury to DECEDENT’s throat, which

commonly occurs with strangulation and is unlikely to occur with a hanging, and

the amount of strength needed to create such injury, Plaintiffs allege that in the early

hours of July 13, 2011, ADAM choked REBECCA to death.

19. Once they murdered REBECCA, DINA instructed ADAM to leave a

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cryptic message on the door outside the room where the murder was committed. The

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message was painted using black paint at a height that is consistent with an

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individual who is approximately the height of ADAM. The message read: “SHE

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SAVED HIM. CAN YOU SAVE HER.”

 

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ADAM, based on black paint residue found on the noose, then

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tightened the noose around the neck of the DECEDENT and attached the rope to the

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base of the bed. ADAM then picked up REBECCA, then threw her over the edge of

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the adjacent balcony. Either DINA or NINA was sitting on the bed to which the

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rope was secured, to ensure that the bed remained anchored to the floor as

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evidenced by the bed having moved less than a foot. While the scheme was being

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perpetrated, Defendants DINA and NINA also acted as look outs to avoid detection

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and encouraged ADAM to commit the acts alleged herein. Although each of the

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Defendants was in part responsible for putting the DECEDENT in harms way, none

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of them made any effort to help her or to save her from the injuries that eventually

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resulted in her death.

 

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The Defendants were careful to remove any evidence of their

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involvement, including the disposal of the tape and REBECCA’s clothes. Once the

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staging was complete, the Defendants fled the scene, instructing ADAM to call the

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police in the early morning with claims of suicide.

 

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FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION FOR WRONGFUL DEATH

 

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22.

Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate by reference herein paragraphs 1

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though 21 of this Complaint and further allege against all Defendants as follows.

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23.

On or about July 13, 2011, Defendants, and each of them, entered into

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a common scheme and plan to murder REBECCA, and in furtherance thereof

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intentionally, willfully, wantonly and maliciously caused physical harm to

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REBECCA by stalking, attacking, choking, gaging, binding, and hanging her at the

 

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Premises. Each of the defendants had his/her own motives for committing these

wrongful acts, including anger and revenge against REBECCA arising from the

fatal injuries suffered by six-year-old Maxwell Shacknai, nephew to ADAM, niece

to NINA and daughter to DINA, while REBECCA was taking care of him two days

before she was murdered. In addition, Defendant DINA SHACKNAI was extremely

jealous of REBECCA’s relationship with her ex-husband, JONAH SHACKNAI and

her now deceased son, Maxwell. The Defendants were further motivated to silence

REBECCA in order to keep her from disclosing matters that could prove extremely

embarrassing to the Defendants and their families.

24. Each of the acts alleged herein were done with a wanton, reckless

disregard for the rights of the DECEDENT and with the full knowledge that she would die as a result of said acts.

25. As a result of Defendants’ intentional, reckless, wanton and unlawful

conduct, REBECCA sustained severe and serious injury to her person, which was the sole cause of her death.

26. By the performing the acts and/or omissions set forth above,

Defendants, and each of them, wrongfully and proximately caused the death of REBECCA.

27. As a proximate result of said Defendants’ wrongful conduct, and the

death of REBECCA, Plaintiffs PARI and ROBERT ZAHAU have been injured and

suffered damages resulting from the loss of comfort, society, attention, services and

support of her daughter, REBECCA, in an amount according to proof. These

Plaintiffs were also financially dependant on REBECCA and thus were also

damaged by the loss of financial support they were receiving from REBECCA at the

time of her death and reasonably expected to receive in the future.

28. As a further actual and proximate result of said Defendants’

negligence, Plaintiffs incurred funeral and burial expenses in and amount according

to proof at trial.

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Case 3:13-cv-01624-W-NLS

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29. Pursuant to C.C.P. Sections 377.60 and 377.61, Plaintiffs have brought

this action, and claim damages from said Defendants for the wrongful death of

REBECCA, and the resulting injuries.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray for judgment against Defendants, and each for

them, as follows:

1. For compensatory damages according to proof;

2. For special damages according to proof;

3. For reimbursement of funeral expenses and costs of burial;

4. For pecuniary damages according to proof;

5. For interest on all sums awarded, according to proof;

6. For costs of suit incurred herein; and

7. All other relief to which Plaintiffs may be entitled under law.

Dated: July 8, 2014

GREER & ASSOCIATES, A.P.C.

By

C. Keith Greer, Esq. Attorney for Plaintiffs

/s/ C. Keith Greer, Esq.

GASTON & GASTON, A.P.L.C.

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By

Frederick Gaston, Esq. Attorney for Plaintiffs

/s/ Frederick Gaston, Esq.

SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR WRONGFUL DEATH