Renewed Natalie Wood death investigation may be nearing end - KCTV5

Renewed Natalie Wood death investigation may be nearing end

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes). Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau Lt. John Corina, far left, discusses the most recent details of the Natalie Wood death investigation at a news conference in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Offici... (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes). Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau Lt. John Corina, far left, discusses the most recent details of the Natalie Wood death investigation at a news conference in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Offici...
(AP Photo/File). FILE - A Dec. 1, 1981 file photo shows actress Natalie Wood. Investigators are now calling 87-year-old actor Robert Wagner a "person of interest" in the 1981 death of his wife Natalie Wood. Mystery has swirled around Wood's death. It w... (AP Photo/File). FILE - A Dec. 1, 1981 file photo shows actress Natalie Wood. Investigators are now calling 87-year-old actor Robert Wagner a "person of interest" in the 1981 death of his wife Natalie Wood. Mystery has swirled around Wood's death. It w...
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes). Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau Capt. Christopher Bergner, left, looks on as Lt. John Corina, right, discusses the most recent details of the Natalie Wood death investigation at a news conference in... (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes). Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau Capt. Christopher Bergner, left, looks on as Lt. John Corina, right, discusses the most recent details of the Natalie Wood death investigation at a news conference in...
(AP Photo/Paul J. Harrington, File). FILE - This Nov. 30, 1981 file photo shows the "Prince Valiant," the inflatable dinghy used by Natalie Wood, moored at the harbor in Avalon, Calif., after it washed up on the rocks on Santa Catalina Island. Patrolme... (AP Photo/Paul J. Harrington, File). FILE - This Nov. 30, 1981 file photo shows the "Prince Valiant," the inflatable dinghy used by Natalie Wood, moored at the harbor in Avalon, Calif., after it washed up on the rocks on Santa Catalina Island. Patrolme...
(Photo by Todd Williamson /Invision/AP). FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2013 file photo, Robert Wagner attends The Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors 31st Annual Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. New witnesses have emerged in the 1981 drowning of actres... (Photo by Todd Williamson /Invision/AP). FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2013 file photo, Robert Wagner attends The Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors 31st Annual Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. New witnesses have emerged in the 1981 drowning of actres...

By MICHAEL BALSAMO
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Detectives hope the renewed interest in the mysterious 1981 drowning death of actress Natalie Wood will bring forward new witnesses who provide the information needed to determine if the case was a crime or tragic accident. If not, it may be the end of the investigation, a Los Angeles County sheriff's official said Monday

For nearly four decades, speculation has swirled around the death of the 43-year-old actress who was nominated for three Academy Awards and starred in "West Side Story" and "Rebel Without a Cause." She was on a yacht with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, actor Christopher Walken and the boat captain on Thanksgiving weekend of 1981. After a night of drinking, her body was found floating in the waters off Southern California's Catalina Island.

Investigators initially ruled her death as an accidental drowning. But the case was reopened in 2011 to see whether Wagner or anyone else played a role after the boat's captain said he heard the couple arguing the night of her disappearance. The coroner's office later amended Wood's death certificate to include "drowning and other undetermined factors."

Detectives have reclassified Wood's drowning as a "suspicious death" and say Wagner is a person of interest in the case. But the evidence collected so far hasn't reached the threshold for a murder investigation and there are no immediate plans to file criminal charges, detectives said Monday.

Several new witnesses have come forward since the case was reopened, including one who described hearing yelling and crashing sounds coming from the couple's stateroom, officials said. Shortly after that, separate witnesses who were on a boat that was in the water nearby, heard a man and woman arguing on the back of the boat and believe the voices were those of Wood and Wagner, according to detectives.

Those witnesses corroborated the account of the boat's captain, Dennis Davern, who had told detectives he heard Wood and Wagner arguing in their cabin on the boat and went to check on them. When he went to their cabin, Wagner told him to go away before Wagner and Wood ended up arguing on the back of the boat, sheriff's homicide Lt. John Corina said Davern told investigators.

"He was the last person with her, arguing, before everything went quiet," Corina said of Wagner. "He's a person of interest because he was the last person with her before she went in the water."

Wagner only spoke to detectives after the drowning in 1981 and although investigators have tried to question him several time since they reopened investigation, he has refused, Corina said.

Wagner's initial statement about what happened and subsequent comments about the case "really don't add up to what we found," Corina said.

Wagner has denied any involvement in Wood's death and his attorney has said he fully cooperated with investigators.

The actor's publicist, Alan Nierob, said detectives have not contacted Wagner, now 87, in more than five years but declined to comment further on the case. Sheriff's officials would not say Monday when they last tried to contact Wagner.

Time has been the largest obstacle in the probe and the original investigator and many of the witnesses have died, Corina said.

"We're doing our last shot here, seeing if anybody else comes forward with any information," he said. "When the tips all dry up, then I guess we move on to the next case."

___

Associated Press writer John Antczak contributed to this report.

___

Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 .

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Powered by Frankly
KCTV 5 News

Online Public File:
KCTV  KSMO

Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2018, KCTV; Kansas City, MO. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.