NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE: The polygraph examination of Adam Shacknai
Posted: May 10, 2013 4:16 PM PDT Updated: May 11, 2013 7:53 AM PDT
By David Gotfredson, Field Producer
Video Report By Phil Blauer, Anchor/Reporter
News 8 Story
Raw Footage - NOTE: Strong language
CORONADO (CBS 8) -- For the first time since the death of Rebecca Zahau at the Spreckels mansion in Coronado we are hearing a firsthand account from the man who said he found Zahau's body hanging from a balcony.
News 8 has obtained video of the polygraph examination of Adam Shacknai, recorded about 12 hours after he called 911 to report finding Zahau's body.
The test itself involved ten, "yes" or "no" questions asked over and over again by veteran police interrogator and polygrapher, Paul Redden.
Redden: Regarding the death of Rebecca, did you yourself do anything to her that resulted in her death?
Redden: Regarding the death of Rebecca, do you know for sure if anyone did anything to her that resulted in her death?
Redden: Regarding the death of Rebecca, were you in the guest room that she was found hanging from at any time during the night?
Before the polygraph exam began, Redden questioned Shacknai about what happened the morning of July 13, 2011 at the mansion located at 1043 Ocean Blvd. in Coronado.
Shacknai: I went around the back into the house. The door was open. I got a knife from the butcher block thing, came back, and cut her down; and called 911 shortly after, if not before.
During the initial questioning, Shacknai was not hooked up to the polygraph machine.
Redden: There was no tape across her mouth?
Shacknai: There was a f**king gag in her mouth, though. Something... I had to pull something out of her f**king mouth. A blue scarf.
Adam Shacknai was the only other person staying at the mansion on the night of Zahau's mysterious death.
Shacknai: After I cut her down, I went to take her pulse. I remember having to get something out of the way of her hands.
Zahau's hands and feet were bound; she was naked and her mouth was gagged, according to the autopsy report.
During questioning, Shacknai told Redden that he believed Zahau took her own life.
Shacknai theorized that Zahau was upset over the tragic fall of 6-year-old Max Shacknai at the mansion two days earlier, while Zahau was babysitting the boy.
Zahau lived at the mansion with Adam Shacknai's brother, millionaire Jonah Shacknai, the boy's father. Max Shacknai was taken off life support and passed away on July 16, 2011.
Redden: Does it seem to you like it's a suicide, then, at that point?
Shacknai: Yes, absolutely.
Redden: What makes you think that?
Shacknai: It's just what crossed my mind because I thought she was there when Max got hurt, supposedly; maybe she just can't live with it you know?
After two hours of questioning, the lie detector exam ended. According to Redden, the results were inconclusive.
Redden: You could have done a whole lot worse on the test. You could have done a whole lot better, too. Based on what we've got, we're in the inconclusive range. But, it really doesn't bother me that much… As far as being involved in it, I'm not inclined to believe that… You're definitely not flunking my test.
Even though the official polygraph results were inconclusive, Redden later told investigators that in his expert opinion Shacknai was telling the truth, court records revealed.
Zahau family attorney Marty Rudoy told News 8 he found the polygraph video "compelling" but questioned the inconclusive findings.
"A finding of inconclusive on a lie detector test indicates operator error. We think there were problems with the test and with the questions; and so, it should be disregarded," said Rudoy.
"(Redden's) opinion, I think, you can take with a grain of salt, even though I acknowledge he's a skilled operator," Rudoy said.
Polygraph evidence is not admissible in court.
Weeks after her death, investigators ruled Zahau's death a suicide and closed the case.
Zahau's family members disagree with that ruling and said publicly they believe Zahau was murdered. Attorneys for the family filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court on Wednesday seeking the release of more evidence in the case.
The Zahau family is asking for financial support on the crowd-funding web site indiegogo.com to help with the costs of an independent investigation and legal fees.
Adam Shacknai and Paul Redden did not respond to News 8 messages seeking comment for this report.