San Diego Confidential: Tabloid-Ready Deaths In SoCal

Odd doings in one of California's Sprekel's Mansions as first a pharmaceutical company's CEO girlfriend, and now his son, have died under mysterious circumstances. How long can Nancy Grace stay away?

The 6-year-old son of Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. founder and Chief Executive Jonah Shacknai has died from injuries suffered in an accident in his California home last week, two days before Mr. Shacknai's girlfriend was found dead at the same property.

The news came in a joint statement late Sunday from the 54-year-old Mr. Shacknai and his ex-wife, Dina, the mother of Max Shacknai. In the statement, they asked that the public respect the privacy of the families and expressed gratitude for "the tremendous outpouring of support provided during this very difficult time."

Medicis makes dermatological and aesthetic drugs, including acne treatment Solodyn as well as Dysport, which competes with Allergan Inc.'s Botox. The Scottsdale, Ariz., company had $700 million in revenue last year.

Max was severely injured after falling down the stairs at the Shacknais' California home last Monday. Two days later, his father's 32-year-old girlfriend, Rebecca Nalepa, was found dead in a case that authorities described as bizarre and unusual. Ms. Nalepa was discovered nude with a rope around her neck, hanging from a balcony off the main house, with her hands and feet bound.

Authorities have said there is no investigation into Max's fall in the house and there has been no connection made between the two incidents.

Uh, you guys sure you want to stick with the "no connection" line of investigation?

The son's fatal injuries occurred before the girlfriend - who has been identified alternatively as "Rebecca Nalepa" and "Rebecca Zahau" - died, but the boy managed to linger for a week. Apparently Nalepa/Zahau was alone in the house with Max when the boy fell down the stairs, while Shaknai's brother was alone in the house with Nalepa/Zahau when she died. The police say they are "comfortable" in knowing Shaknai's location on the days his son and girlfriend suffered their fatal injuries, so that wraps that up, I guess. Anyone comfortable with a 6-year old being left alone with his dad's girlfriend? The obvious suspect in Zahau's death is the brother who was "living in a guesthouse" - can you say wastrel sibling? - while all of this was going on, but right now no one knows if the girlfriend's death was a homicide or a suicide.

All of this looks, not just mysterious, but also convenient with two deaths in the home of someone who wasn't there, and whom the police are going out of their way to handle with care. After the DSK fiasco, it's probably best to not send a prominent person out for a light perp walk, but I hope the police aren't leaving anyone off of their list of suspects.

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