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Cyril Wecht Performs Autopsy In High-Profile Calif. Case

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(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

Mary Robb Jackson Mary Robb Jackson
Mary Robb Jackson joined KDKA-TV as a general assignment reporter in...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The tabloid’s dubbed the case,”The Mystery of the Pink Rope.”

The medical examiner in San Diego, Calif., called it a suicide. The victim’s family calls it murder.

The body has been exhumed and sent to Pittsburgh so that famed forensic pathologist Dr. Cryil Wecht can perform a private autopsy.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s building on Penn Avenue is named for Dr. Cyril Wecht.

The former coroner has been consulted on some of the highest profile cases in the country from the Kennedy assassination to Anna Nicole Smith to Jon Benet Ramsey. He’s asked by families who want answers.

Rebecca Zahau, 32, was beautiful and had a pharmaceuticals business billionaire boyfriend, 54-year-old Jonah Shacknai.

Zahau’s naked body was found this past July 13 hanging from a courtyard balcony at Shacknai’s California mansion. There was a pink rope around her neck. Her hands were bound behind her back and her ankles were tied.

Recently revealed details say that a T-shirt was stuffed in her mouth and tape residue was found on her legs.

“That the decision to call this a suicide, the manner of death, was arrived at hastily when you consider the circumstances,” says Dr. Wecht after seeing the first autopsy report.

Investigators said Zahau was despondent after her boyfriend’s 6-year-old son Max died after falling down a flight of stairs while in her care. It happened just a couple of days before her body was discovered.

But Zahau’s family does not believe she would commit suicide and among Dr. Wecht’s concerns are four separate hemorrhages under her scalp.

“How do you get those hanging yourself vertically?” he said.

The fact that Zahau was naked is also not typical, according to Wecht.

“Well, women don’t usually commit suicide nude,” he said. “I’m not telling you it’s never happened, but it is rare. Women have a sense of propriety, of dignity.”

Dr. Wecht, who performed the second autopsy Friday morning at Carlow University’s Forensics Lab, says there was nothing to compromise his examination.

“What I needed to find and see were there,” he added.

When any new information is released, Dr. Wecht says that it will come from Rebecca Zahau’s family or their attorney as is typical with a private autopsy.

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