Mike’s testimony at the Zahau v. Shacknai trial

On March 5 and 6, 2018 forensic document examiner Mike Wakshull testified in the wrongful death trial of Rebecca Zahau. Handwriting examination was used to determine who wrote the words, “SHE SAVED HIM CAN YOU SAVE HER” on a door at the Spreckels Mansion on Coronado Island, California. In 2011 Rebecca Zahau was found dead hanging from a balcony at the mansion. The coroner had ruled her death was a suicide. Her family believes she was murdered by her boyfriend’s brother, Adam Shacknai. In this civil trial Shacknai was accused of having murdered Rebecca Zahau.

Since there were neither fingerprints nor DNA at the scene, handwriting became the only potential evidence to place Adam at the scene of Rebecca’s death. I was retained by Rebecca’s family to perform a forensic handwriting examination on Adams handwriting and Rebecca’s handwriting. Since the writing on the door was block print, only handwriting from Rebecca Zahau and Adam Shacknai written in block print could be used for comparison purposes.

Since I did not have many exemplars from which to work, my opinion with regard to Adam was there are indications that Adam wrote the words “SHE SAVED HIM CAN YOU SAVE HER” on the door. Indications is a standard term used by forensic document examiners to express a weak opinion in one direction. My opinion with regard to Rebecca was inconclusive whether she written the words on the door. When Rebecca’s handwriting and Adams handwriting were compared to the writing on the door, it was more likely Adam who wrote the words that Rebecca.

After one month at trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The verdict meant Adam Shacknai was responsible for the murder of Rebecca Zahau.

In April, 2018 Marcia Clark dedicated a program to the Rebecca Zahau trial. In this program she included her interview with Mike Wakshull regarding how he formed the forensic handwriting examination in his opinions in the case.

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