By Caitlin Rother
As the site of Rebecca Zahau's controversial death by hanging in 2011, the historic Spreckels Mansion has been in the public eye for years.
I've been watching it closely because it's also featured on the cover of my upcoming book, DEATH ON OCEAN BOULEVARD: Inside The Coronado Mansion Case, which comes out on April 27, 2021. (Click on the title to pre-order.)
In the years after Rebecca's death, I watched as the house went on and off the market, most recently for between $16.9 million and $17.5 million. In 2020, I saw it was taken off the sale market and was listed as a monthly rental for $80,000 and then $60,000. I later learned that it had not just been taken off the market, but sold -- for $11 million -- right after the COVID shutdown hit back in March 2020.
As I interviewed people about the history of the house itself, I learned that modifications were made to the interior by the people who owned it after Rebecca's boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai, but I could see the changes in the front yard for myself. Six mature palm trees were planted in the front yard, and other landscaping was added behind a new stucco wall and iron gate, which lent it more of a secure feel.
Still, the mansion that some local residents called "the murder house" continued to sit vacant.
When I walked by it in early December 2020, it still looked like this photo above. But when I went back last week, I saw that the new owner had made some dramatic changes to the front yard, removing the trees, the lawn and landscaping, and putting in these rocks. I'm guessing the rocks are temporary, probably as a way to keep the construction dust down until new landscaping is put in.
Just fyi, these last two photos were taken in the late afternoon, so it's still the same cream color, it's just the lighting that's different. And although the yellow "caution" tape is up again, this time it's for a different reason.
The front yard has been returned to a more historic look, as featured on my book cover (see below), and as it was before Rebecca's tragic death in the rear courtyard. I'm curious to see what the new owner does next.
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