Nearly four decades after the unexplained drowning death of Hollywood star Natalie Wood, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators tell “48 Hours” that her then-husband, actor Robert Wagner, is now a person of interest. Investigators want to speak with Wagner about the circumstances surrounding her death one night in 1981, they say in interviews for “48 Hours: Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water”.
On Thursday, responding to interest generated on the matter, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles sheriff confirmed that new witnesses who have come forward since the case was reopened in 2011 have provided investigators with a different story of what happened during Wood’s final hours. The witnesses’ accounts have prompted Los Angeles Country officials to deem the actor’s death “suspicious” and name her 87-year-old former husband Robert Wagner as a “person of interest.”
According to People, a couple of “very credible” new witnesses in the case of actress Natalie Wood’s 1981 death indicate that an argument onboard the boat she disappeared from proves that he was indeed jealous. It’s just one bit of new information that has led authorities to believe that her drowning might not have been an accident, as it was originally ruled nearly 40 years ago. Wood, Wagner and Christopher Walken were all aboard Wagner’s yacht Splendour on the night of November 28, 1981, and the two new witnesses reportedly corroborated Captain Dennis Davern’s account from that evening, which differs from Wagner’s.
Natalie Wood, the 43-year-old Oscar-nominated star of films such as Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story, drowned off the coast of Catalina Island in California that night of Nov. 29, 1981. She was found wearing a flannel nightgown, socks and a red down jacket and Davern identified her body for authorities, according to an autopsy report. Her body had superficial bruises, according to the report, but those were considered consistent with drowning. “She looked like a victim of an assault,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez says in 48 Hours. “We have not been able to prove this was a homicide. And we haven’t been able to prove that this was an accident, either. The ultimate problem is we don’t know how she ended up in the water.”
Her death was ruled an accident in 1981, but the sheriff’s department reopened the case in 2011, ultimately changing the cause of death on her death certificate from an accidental drowning to “drowning and other undetermined factors” in 2012.