Table of Contents
- Old Hollywood Stars’ Intimate Home Party Photos
- After all these years, Natalie Wood’s death is still a big mystery
- Natalie Wood death: 48 Hours documentary reveals details of why Robert Wagner is now ‘person of interest’
- Shape Created with Sketch. Riddle of Natalie Wood’s final hours
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- How did Natalie Wood drown? CBS sheds little light on that mystery
- Natalie Wood Reopened Case Prompts CBS’ ’48 Hours Mystery’ to Move Up Air Date
- The segment will air on Saturday, one week earlier than planned, as boat captain Dennis Davern makes the media rounds and representatives for Wood’s husband Robert Wagner accuse Davern of opportunism.
Robert Wagner is now a person of interest in the case of Natalie Wood’s 1981 death. The actor, who was married to Wood at the time, was, investigators say, the last person to be seen with Wood the night that she drowned at the age of 43 off the coast of Catalina Island in California. The unsolved case reopened in 2011, and now, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigators tell CBS’s 48 Hours that Wagner is someone to question in the case. Per Deadline, Wagner “refused comment to 48 Hours or participation in the report.”
“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina told 48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty, per CBS News. “I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”
In 2012, the Los Angeles County’s coroner office amended Wood’s death certificate to read “drowning and other undetermined factors,” thus opening up a new round of questions. And Corina told 48 Hours that Wagner’s story hasn’t been consistent. “I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case,” Corina says of Wagner. “I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.”
In 2000, Vanity Fair’s Sam Kashner wrote an in-depth piece on the mysterious case that brought up implications for Wagner’s possible role in Wood’s death. Onboard the boat with Wood and Wagner were Wagner’s friend, Christopher Walken, and Dennis Davern, the captain of Wagner and Wood’s yacht, Splendour.
“There was some kind of argument going on,” Davern told Kashner of the night before Wood’s death, when she and Wagner were reportedly arguing.
“Christopher went down to take a nap or something, and Natalie and R.J. started fighting. I thought, ‘I don’t believe this! I don’t believe this fight is still going on.’ This was later in the afternoon. Natalie says to R.J., ‘You’re being so silly.’ It went back and forth and back and forth. Natalie finally says to R.J., ‘I’m going ashore,’ and she asks me, ‘Dennis, will you take me ashore?’”
The next night, back on the yacht after spending the evening offshore with Davern, Wood left the yacht in the middle of the night and was found lying facedown in the water wearing a red down jacket, blue wool socks, and flannel nightgown. In the 1986 book Heart to Heart with Robert Wagner, quoted in Kashner’s piece, Wagner theorized about what he thought had happened.
“It was only after I was told that she was dressed in a sleeping gown, heavy socks, and a parka that it dawned on me what had really occurred. Natalie obviously had trouble sleeping with that dinghy slamming up against the boat. It happened many, many times before, and I had always gone out and pulled the ropes tighter to keep the dinghy flush against the yacht. She probably skidded on one of the steps after untying the ropes. The steps are slick as ice because of the algae and seaweed that’s always clinging to them. After slipping on the steps, she hit her head against the boat . . . I only hope she was unconscious when she hit the water.”
The 48 Hours episode, “Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water,” will broadcast on Saturday, February 3, at 10 P.M. E.T. on CBS.
Old Hollywood Stars’ Intimate Home Party Photos
1 / 24Chevron Chevron From the Screenland Archive/Library of Congress. Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer (Screenland 1958) Audrey Hepburn, husband Mel Ferrer, and their beloved dog Famous relax in their Beverly Hills, California, home.
After all these years, Natalie Wood’s death is still a big mystery
Sara M Moniuszko USA TODAY Published 5:07 PM EST Feb 3, 2018 Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood in 1980. AP
Actress Natalie Wood’s death remains a Hollywood mystery, but a TV special will soon shed new light on the dark case.
Now thirty-six years after her tragic death, new details about the re-opened investigation are being revealed in Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water, a CBS 48 Hours report, airing Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Here’s five things to know before the special:
Who is Natalie Wood?
A California native, the 43-year-old actress starred in films such as Splendor in the Grass, Miracle on 34th Street, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and The Searchers. She is also known for her role as Judy in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause and her role as Maria in the 1961 film West Side Story.
A leading lady in Hollywood during her time, she was nominated for three Academy Awards before she was 25.
She married actor Robert Wagner in 1957 before splitting in 1962. She then married British film producer Richard Gregson from 1969 to 1972, during which time they had a daughter together, Natasha Gregson Wagner, 47. In 1972, she re-married Wagner until her death in 1981. She also shares a child with Wagner, Courtney Brooke Wagner, 43.
When did she die?
Wood died on Nov. 29, 1981 in Santa Catalina Island, Calif. After disappearing from a yacht under circumstances that remain murky at best, her body was found hours later, clad in a flannel nightgown, red down jacket and blue socks. The body had floated in the Pacific about a mile away from the yacht and off the island’s Blue Cavern Point.
Why is it still a mystery?
Her death was ruled an accidental drowning at the time, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the case in 2011; the following year, the cause of death on her death certificate was changed to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”
The official cause of death was changed but no charges were ever filed against Robert Wagner or anyone else, even though Wagner was named a “person of interest.”
Who is suspected now?
On Thursday, sheriff’s detectives said new witnesses had emerged, leading investigators to label Wood’s death “suspicious” and once again named her then-husband Robert Wagner a “person of interest.”
In a statement Thursday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said new witnesses interviewed since the case was reopened gave statements that “portray a new sequence of events on the boat that night.”
More: Natalie Wood’s ‘suspicious’ death: What you need to know about this Hollywood mystery
More: Natalie Wood’s 1981 drowning now considered a ‘suspicious death’
Who is in the special?
Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water will feature 48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty interviewing investigators and others close to the case about new witnesses, new evidence and new theories.
“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think (Robert Wagner is) more of a person of interest now,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina tells Moriarty in a sneak peak of the special. “I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”
Wagner, however, will not be making an appearance, as investigators say he has refused to speak with them since the case was reopened.
Watch a sneak peak of the special below.
After my first article about the new leads in the mysterious death of Natalie Wood, I have become intrigued by the nearly 4-decade old mystery. On February 3rd CBS’s ’48 Hours’ did a special ‘Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water‘ in which they explored the events surrounding Natalie Wood’s death and the role Robert Wagner “may” have played in it.
As I mentioned in my first article that Natalie Wood’s was found dead from what everyone assumed was an accidental drowning on November 29, 1981. Wood’s was on a Thanksgiving weekend sailing trip with her husband actor Robert Wagner, her co-star and friend Christopher Walken and Dennis Davern who was the captain of the yacht they were on “The Splendour“. What was supposed to be a fun and relaxing getaway turned into a tragedy and one of Hollywood’s biggest mysteries.
At the time of her death, the investigators and coroner just ruled her death an accidental drowning even though the rumors had already made their way through Hollywood. Many years passed, and the rumors turned to whispers for everyone but Dennis Davern the boat captain. His conscience would not allow him to remain silent any longer. After many years of sharing his story in 2011, he presented the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department with a petition signed with over 700 signatures asking them to re-open the case of Natalie Wood’s death. Then nine months into the re-opened investigation the medical examiner offices changed her death certificate to read “drowning and other undetermined factors”. There were numerous bruises on Wood’s body that had been photographed and noted in the autopsy that convinced the ME to change the cause of death. These findings lead the investigators and the medical examiner to believe that she had been the victim of an assault prior to her drowning death.
Dennis Davern has been the key witness in this case as he was one of the only four people who were on board. Davern’s side of the story starts that the weekend was strained, violate and alcohol-fueled. Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood had been fighting off and on from the start of the trip. Wagner’s jealousy of their guest and Natalie’s friend Christopher Walken seemed to be another trigger for these arguments. At one point, Wood’s had gotten so upset she asked Dennis to take her to shore. The two stayed on land overnight however they returned to the boat the next day where things had gotten better but as the day went on the fights resurfaced. The four passengers were seen at a bar on land drinking and having a good time and all left and boarded the boat to continue drinking. Around 10:30 P.M. according to Darven, he opened a bottle wine for the trio and noticed that Wood and Walken were talking and giggling then Robert Wagner exploded with anger. He grabbed the wine bottled slammed against the table shattering the bottle and screamed at Walken “What are you trying to do, f*** my wife?” At that time Natalie said, “I cannot take this” and went her room. Christopher Walken also retired to his room after Wagner’s outburst.
Davern goes on to explain that he could hear the couple arguing loudly in their cabin and could hear thumping. Dennis explained that he went to knock on their door to see if everything was ok however when Wagner opened the door with an angry and crazed look on his face and told him to “Go away”. Draven left as he was afraid for his own safety. He said the fighting then moved to the back of the boat. It became so loud and intense he felt something really bad was going to happen. Then all of a sudden there was complete silence. When Dennis comes out he finds Wagner crying in the stateroom and he tells Davern that “Natalie’s gone. She’s missing”. So Davern goes looking for her but with no luck he returns to Wagner who then informs him that the yacht’s dinghy was missing. Davern asks if he should call for help but Wagner refused. He said that Natalie probably went into town. Davern then asked if they should turn on the searchlight but Wagner again refused and instead got them a bottle of scotch and the two started to drink why they “waited” for her to return. By Robert Wagner’s own statement Wood’s went missing at midnight and they did not call for help until 1:30 A.M. However, at that time Wagner insisted that people only really look for her “in town” they could not convince him to call the Coast Guard until 3:30 A.M. The search then took off, however, it was a friend of Robert Wagner named Doug Bombard who found Natalie floating in her flannel nightgown, red coat and blue wool socks at 7:44 A.M. Bombard was the person to let Wagner know that they had found Natalie’s body. Wagner and Walken left the island not long after in a police helicopter leaving Davern to identify Wood’s body.
Robert Wagner insisted that all three of the men be on the same page that Natalie must have been trying to attach the dinghy to the side of the boat because the wind was causing it to bang against the side of the boat. On the rare times Christopher Walken as spoken publicly about that night this is what he says he thinks happens. However, as time went on Dennis could not keep the events to himself. When the story broke in 2011 that they were investigating the events of that night several new leads came in and a couple of reliable witnesses who also saw the fight that occurred on the back of the boat on that fateful night. Also, the airing of this program, the write-ups leading up to it and just concerned people have been coming forward with new leads and more possible witnesses.
So here are some key points I have taken away from this program that makes me question the events of that night. As someone who is obsessed with ‘The First 48′, ‘Forensic Files‘ and ‘Forensic Factor‘ I just kept noticing things that made me go hmmm. Natalie Wood had a life-long fear of dark water. She was not a great swimmer, so she was not comfortable swimming. I mention these because they are part of my “theory”.
Why would a celebrity female go ANYWHERE in a flannel nightgown, red down coat and blue wool socks? This was his first theory that she went to town. How did she untie the dingy by herself? I have never done it, but I would assume it would not be easy, especially in stormy weather. That leads me to WHY would she do it by herself? She knew that Dennis Davern was on the boat and that was his job. Also, if she wanted to leave the boat AGAIN why not ask Davern as she had the night before? Again, especially with it being stormy. She did not even know how to start the dinghy so why bother getting it down? Let’s say she got it down, got in and got it started and set out, the seas were stormy and rough if you have a fear of dark water and if you are not a great swimmer I really doubt you are going to go out into it by yourself on a tiny boat. I am just sharing my “Couch Detective” thoughts I have gathered from the research I have done for these two articles. I urge you to watch 48 Hours ‘Natalie Wood: Death in the Dark Water.
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Natalie Wood death: 48 Hours documentary reveals details of why Robert Wagner is now ‘person of interest’
She was found floating face down 100 yards from shore, a woman who had declared herself “terrified of water, dark water, seawater”.
The actress Natalie Wood, once “the most beautiful teenager in the world”, a luminous talent who garnered three Oscar nominations before she was 25, was dead from drowning aged 43.
This, the world was soon told, had been a tragic accident. James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause co-star had died after falling from the 60ft yacht Splendour she shared with her husband Robert Wagner, of TV’s Hart to Hart.
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Just two weeks after the actress was found dead off California’s Catalina Island, the case was closed: “Strictly accidental”, ruled the Los Angeles County Coroner Thomas T Noguchi.
Ms Wood had probably slipped and fallen into the water on the night of 28 November 1981 as she tried, on her own, to untie the yacht’s 13ft inflatable dinghy and climb into it.
The grief-stricken Mr Wagner took to his bedroom, refusing all visitors including the actress Elizabeth Taylor.
“If I’d been there,” he wrote decades later, “I could have done something. I wasn’t.
“I would have done anything in the world to protect her. Anything. I lost a woman I loved with all my heart.”
Now though, a very different version of events has emerged.
Mr Wagner, the grieving husband, has now been described by the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department as “a person of interest” in the case.
And in a CBS 48 Hours documentary broadcast on Saturday night, Mr Wagner was recast as a jealous husband, angry at the attention his wife was paying to Christopher Walken, her co-star in the upcoming thriller Brainstorm.
Aged 38 to Wagner’s 51, an Oscar nominee to Wagner’s film career in B-movies, Walken had been invited onto the yacht despite Hollywood rumours about how close he was getting to Wood.
The 48 Hours documentary didn’t just repeat the testimony of the yacht’s captain Dennis Davern, that Wagner had smashed a wine bottle and screamed at Walken – “Do you want to f*** my wife?”- before having a violent drunken row, alone, with Wood, and telling her “Get off my f***ing boat”.
The programme went further and said a pair of detectives had now found two new witnesses who could for the first time corroborate Mr Davern’s evidence of a row between Wagner and Wood near the stern of the yacht.
One witness supposedly heard the row. The other, 48 Hours reported, “Saw figures, a male and a female, whose voices they recognised as being Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood arguing in the back of the boat.”
The witnesses were not named, nor were their whereabouts when they heard the row made public. But the detectives said they were “very credible”, and 48 Hours reported that they also backed Davern – who first went fully public in 2011 – in one potentially sinister detail: they claimed the argument stopped suddenly, to be followed by complete silence.
The detectives, it should be said, have not declared Mr Wagner as a suspect in the case. Indeed, the 87-year-old actor has never been named as a suspect and has never wavered from his insistence that he was both grief-stricken and innocent when his wife died.
But now, inevitably, speculation is focusing on where Mr Wagner’s showbiz image might end and his reality begin.
It is hard to miss the irony that when his wife died after disappearing from a 60ft yacht, Mr Wagner was the star of the popular TV series Hart to Hart: “Millionaire sleuths solve mysteries while enjoying wedded bliss,” was how one fan remembered it fondly.
“My favourite part was to see such a happy and nice looking couple as Jonathan and Jennifer ”, remembered another fan.
“The people they fought were incidental to the show to me,” she added.
Of course they were. On TV, the baddies – who most weeks were murderers – were always caught and the mystery neatly resolved by the end of every episode. Allowing the fabulously wealthy Harts to get on with living the American dream.
“What I liked most about the show,” wrote the fan, “Was how close the Harts were and also how very happily married.”
Which was precisely the role America ordained for Wood and Wagner when they first married in 1957.
She was the 19-year-old named by LIFE magazine as “the most beautiful teenager in the world”.
He was the 27-year-old “golden boy” with matinee idol looks. Their marriage was described as “the glittering union of the 20th Century”.
Shape Created with Sketch. Riddle of Natalie Wood’s final hours
Show all 6 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. Hollywood actress Natalie Wood Rex Features
The star with her husband Robert Wagner Rex Features
Natalie Wood with Christopher Walken in her last film ‘Brainstorm’ Rex Features
The inflatable dinghy used by Wood AP
Dennis Davern, the man who captained the boat on the night when Wood died MSNBC.COM/TODAY
Hollywood actress Natalie Wood Rex Features The star with her husband Robert Wagner Rex Features Natalie Wood with Christopher Walken in her last film ‘Brainstorm’ Rex Features The inflatable dinghy used by Wood AP Dennis Davern, the man who captained the boat on the night when Wood died MSNBC.COM/TODAY AP
“People expected place to be the last word in the American dream,” recalled their friend, the playwright Mart Crowley, “A doll’s house with dolls living in it.”
And yet by 1962, they were divorcing, with Ms Wood alleging “mental cruelties” by her husband.
Robert Wagner once told a television interviewer: “It was basically my inadequacy that didn’t make it work”.
48 Hours has now alleged more disturbing detail. The documentary said the detectives had traced a former neighbour, who claimed to remember that when he was 12, a terrified Natalie Wood had banged on the door of his family house late one night.
The programme quoted Lieutenant John Corina, of the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department as saying: “She was so afraid of him. She ran to a neighbour’s house yelling … ‘he’s gonna kill me’. And looking for help and looking for safety. And so a neighbour took her in.”
Wood returned home the next morning. The detectives told 48 Hours they have found no other allegations of possible violence in the first Wood-Wagner marriage.
And friends said that despite divorcing, the couple remained “besotted” with each other.
By 1972 the couple had split from their respective new partners to get back together and remarry.
Ms Wood’s younger sister Lana, however, now seems to have rather lukewarm memories of the reunion.
She told 48 Hours that after telling her she was remarrying Mr Wagner, Ms Wood “looked down, and said, ‘Sometimes, it’s better to be with the devil you know than the devil you don’t.’”
But by 1977 Wood and Wagner seemed to be back living the American dream.
The couple invited a TV interviewer into their beautiful home. With Ms Wood’s daughter Natasha – by Richard Gregson, her second husband – playing piano in the background, Mr Wagner smiled and said: “I’m sure glad it’s all worked out.”
At about the same time, Ms Wood told an interviewer about her fear of dark water.
“I had a mean director one time who threw me in the ocean,” she revealed. “I was terrified, petrified, because we were in the open ocean.”
And then, in 1981, came the Thanksgiving weekend on the yacht, with the married couple, the skipper and Walken.
Natalie Wood with Christopher Walken, as they appeared in a publicity still for ‘Brainstorm’ (Rex Features)
At the time, in public, even suggestions of an argument between Walken and Wagner were played down.
When the coroner tentatively mentioned a “non-violent argument” between the two men, a sheriff’s homicide investigator told the Los Angeles Times: “I don’t know where the coroner got that information.”
And as to what Ms Wood, a weak swimmer terrified of dark water, would be doing with a dinghy, late at night in rough seas, while wearing only a nightgown, socks and a red down jacket, the investigator had a ready answer: “According to the people we talked to, it was not uncommon for her to take the dinghy out on a nice night. She was very familiar with it.”
Mr Wagner developed his own theory, one that might explain both the bruises found on his wife’s body, and, possibly, the scratch marks on the rubber dinghy.
In his 2009 autobiography Pieces of My Heart, he wrote that as he was on one of the top decks while his wife was trying to sleep in the cabin: “Natalie obviously had trouble sleeping with that dinghy slamming up against the boat.
“She probably skidded on one of the steps after untying the ropes. The steps are slick as ice because of the algae and seaweed that’s always clinging to them. After slipping on the steps, she hit her head against the boat… I only hope she was unconscious when she hit the water.”
But despite – or perhaps because of – officialdom wrapping it up so quickly, the case was the subject of whispering and innuendo almost from the start.
And much of it stemmed from the skipper, Mr Davern. 48 Hours and others have said he has not been an entirely consistent witness.
He told investigators in 1981 that he had seen nothing untoward. But eventually, Mr Davern started selling another story – or partial versions of it – to reporters.
One of the first versions, given to the Globe as “Natalie Wood, the Shocking Truth About Her Death”, revealed a row on the night of 28 November – but only between Walken and Wagner, with no mention of any confrontation between husband and wife.
This version could, in fact, have been said to have tallied with what Wagner wrote in his 2009 autobiography, in which he too admitted an argument with Walken, about Ms Wood’s career (rather than the Oscar winner’s intentions towards his wife).
Then, having co-authored a book about the case, in 2011 Mr Davern gave a statement to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
This seems to be the version he has stuck with ever since – and it was sufficiently explosive to see the whole case reopened.
He claimed Mr Wagner had confronted Walken about wanting to “f*** my wife”. Then, he said, after Walken retreated to his cabin and went to sleep, he heard the sounds of a “terrible argument” between Wood and Wagner in the stateroom cabin.
“I heard things (objects, possibly people) hitting the walls and things being thrown at the ceiling,” the skipper said in his 2011 statement.
“Then I heard voices again on the deck.
“The only full sentence I could completely decipher during the entire argument was ‘Get off my f***ing boat’ said by Robert Wagner.”
When he arrived on the rear deck 15 minutes later, Mr Davern said, “Only Robert Wagner was present. appeared sweaty, flustered, anxious, nervous and dishevelled. He told me ‘Natalie is missing’.”
Mr Davern said he wanted to radio for help, but with the dinghy also missing, Mr Wagner instructed him to wait before raising the alarm, suggesting Ms Wood had gone ashore and would return.
“Robert Wagner opened scotch and poured alcohol for me,” wrote Mr Davern. “He encouraged me to drink. He discussed with me the repercussions of bringing immediate attention to the situation.”
According to Mr Davern, the star of Hart to Hart had seemed keen for his real marriage to appear as untroubled as his onscreen one.
“Robert Wagner,” he wrote, “Claimed he did not want to tarnish his image by drawing public attention to the situation.”
Mr Davern said the coastguard was only called at 3.30am, some three hours after Mr Wagner first told him his wife was missing.
And then, claimed Mr Davern, after Ms Wood’s body was found, “I was told to say nothing and that I was to see an attorney in the next day or two to sign a statement being prepared for me, which I did sign, after barely reading it.”
The skipper said Mr Wagner invited him to live with him at his Beverly Hills home.
“Mr Wagner even secured a job for me as a general-extra actor on his TV show Hart to Hart,” wrote Mr Davern.
But, he said, his conscience began bothering him – he would later tell journalists that staying at the Wagner mansion was like being kept a virtual prisoner.
“I couldn’t walk out the front door,” he claimed. “Somebody was always there, usually Wagner’s bodyguard. I felt really closed in.”
He wasn’t, he insisted, telling his story for the money. “What I really want,” he insisted in 2011, “Is to give Natalie a voice.”
Via his publicity team, however, Mr Wagner responded with a statement strongly hinting that some people were trying to cash in on his wife’s passing: “The Wagner family … fully support the efforts of the sheriff’s department and trust they will evaluate whether any new information comes from a credible source or those simply trying to profit from the 30-year anniversary of her tragic death.”
And in this, Mr Wagner was backed by one of the original detectives, Duane Rasure.
“Obviously he was trying to sell a book and make money off of it,” Mr Rasure told reporters in 2011.
“If I have ever the slightest inkling there was a murder, something suspicious, I would have worked it. I did not cover for anybody and I wouldn’t cover for anybody.”
Mr Rasure added that he accepted Wagner’s explanation that he waited before raising the alarm because he had been under the impression she had gone ashore in the dinghy.
“He did call and have the people on the shore search,” Mr Rasure added.
The reopening of the 2011 case seemed, ultimately, to have altered little.
The only visible change was that in 2012 Wood’s death certificate was amended to change the cause from “accidental death” to “drowning and other undetermined factors”.
This, reporters were told, was because investigators couldn’t rule out that some of the bruises on Ms Wood’s body happened before she went into the water.
But now Detective Ralph Hernandez, of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, has told 48 Hours that those two dozen bruises had made Wood look “like the victim of an assault”.
He and his colleague John Corina told the documentary that behind the scenes, the publicity surrounding the reopening of the investigation in 2011 prompted new witnesses to come forward, yielding between 100 and 150 new clues – and the new witnesses who seem to back up Mr Davern.
For all the previous shifts in his evidence, the two cops now believe the old skipper is a credible witness.
Mr Corina told 48 Hours: “His version of events … Makes more sense of what happened and is corroborated by other people.”
But as for Wagner – who has always denied rowing with his wife on the night in question – Corina told 48 Hours: “I haven’t seen him tell the details … that match … all the other witnesses in this case. I think he’s constantly … changed … his story a little bit.
“And … his version of events just don’t add up.”
Once described as ‘the most beautiful teenager in the world’, Natalie Wood had three Oscar nominations before she was 25 (Rex Features)
Mr Corina and Mr Hernandez told 48 Hours that despite several attempts, including a trip to Aspen, where Wagner lives with the actress Jill St John, his third wife, the star has declined to speak to them.
That may, of course, simply be because Wagner now feels he has no new information to add.
His attorney Blair Berk said as much in 2011, issuing a statement which read: “Mr Wagner has fully cooperated over the last 30 years in the investigation of the accidental drowning of his wife.
“Mr Wagner has been interviewed on multiple occasions by the Los Angeles sheriff’s department and answered every single question asked of him by detectives during those interviews.”
Mr Corina and Mr Hernandez, for their part, are insistent that they won’t close the case “until we get the truth”.
What they could do with that truth, however, is another matter. As 48 Hours confirmed, after more than 36 years the statutes of limitations have run out on all possible offences except murder. And to prove murder, the cops will need to prove someone deliberately forced Ms Wood into the sea with the intention of killing her.
Without the intent to kill, manslaughter, even failing to help Ms Wood once she was in the dark water would yield no criminal legal action.
And, for now, as Detective Hernandez acknowledged, “The ultimate problem is we don’t know how she ended up in the water. We have not been able to prove this was a homicide. And we haven’t been able to prove this was an accident, either.”
Unlike in the cosy fictional world of Hart to Hart, it seems the real life case of Robert Wagner’s wife Natalie Wood will have no simple, definitive ending.
How did Natalie Wood drown? CBS sheds little light on that mystery
Kim Willis USA TODAY Published 2:38 AM EST Feb 4, 2018
Thirty-six years and one 48 Hours special later, the truth about how Natalie Wood drowned remains as elusive as ever.
Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood in 1980. AP
For days, CBS had touted the news that the actress’ widower, Robert Wagner, 87, is now considered a person of interest. But little new light was shed on the case, which the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened in 2011, leading to the circumstances surrounding her death being reclassified from “accident” to “undetermined.”
“I mean, we know now that (Wagner) was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared,” Lt. John Corina told CBS’ Erin Moriarty in the report, which aired Saturday night. Later, Corina noted, “He’s changed his story a little bit. His version of events just don’t add up.”
More: Natalie Wood’s ‘suspicious’ death: What you need to know
Related: As Natalie Wood investigation reopens, five other Hollywood deaths still shrouded in mystery
Also: After all these years, Natalie Wood’s death is still a big mystery
The glamorous, three-time Oscar nominee died in 1981 off Catalina Island, where she was spending Thanksgiving weekend aboard the yacht Splendour with her husband, her Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken and the boat’s captain. She disappeared after retiring to her room for the night, and her body was found floating in the water the next day, clad in a nightgown and a red down jacket.
Highlights of the report:
• The newest developments in the investigation involve unnamed witnesses who say they overheard the couple’s arguments.
One person on a neighboring boat saw Wood, 43, who appeared to be drunk, quarrel with Wagner about moving the boat the night before her death; as he walked away from the fight, she fell to one knee. Boat captain Dennis Davern says she asked him to take her ashore, where she booked two hotel rooms for them and poured her heart out about the difficulties in her marriage. The next day, Davern told investigators, Wood had a change of heart; she decided to return to the boat and cook breakfast to smooth things over.
Two other witnesses say they heard Wagner and Wood arguing on the back of the boat the night she disappeared. “Nobody saw anybody go in the water,” Corina says. “Nobody heard a splash. Nobody heard anything. They just heard an argument and then silence.”
• All four of the boat’s occupants were so intoxicated in town the evening of Wood’s death, the restaurant manager alerted the harbor master to keep an eye out for the celebrities. “They’re really intoxicated,” Corina quotes the manager as saying. “Make sure they get back to their boat OK.”
Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. AFP/Getty Images
• Wagner wrote in his 2008 memoir, Pieces of My Heart, that he shattered a wine bottle the night of his wife’s death, during an argument with Walken after Wood retired for the night. But Davern says Wagner broke the bottle because Wood was paying too much attention to Walken. He says Wagner followed Wood to her room, and a loud and physical fight ensued. When Davern knocked on the door, he says Wagner answered and told him to go away.
• When Wood and the boat’s dinghy went missing around midnight, Wagner wouldn’t call for help, Davern says. He says the actor brought out a bottle of scotch. More than an hour later, “it’s time,” Davern says. “We have to call somebody. She’s gone.” Wagner sought help to search for his wife in town and was finally persuaded to call the Coast Guard.
• Wood’s autopsy detailed a number of bruises on her body, which would be consistent with drowning. But “she looked like a victim of assault,” says Det. Ralph Hernandez.
• Since the investigation reopened, detectives have traveled twice to Hawaii to comb the yacht for clues, once bringing Davern along to re-enact his version of events — though Davern has changed his story over the years, sold it to tabloids and collaborated on a tell-all book. The boat is now up for sale.
• Both Wagner and Walken, who detectives say isn’t a person of interest in the investigation, declined to be interviewed by CBS. Investigators say Wagner hasn’t spoken to them since the case was reopened. No charges have been filed, and Wagner has previously denied any involvement in his wife’s death.
His representative did not immediately respond when USA TODAY reached out for comment on the report.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Published 2:38 AM EST Feb 4, 2018
Natalie Wood Reopened Case Prompts CBS’ ’48 Hours Mystery’ to Move Up Air Date
The segment will air on Saturday, one week earlier than planned, as boat captain Dennis Davern makes the media rounds and representatives for Wood’s husband Robert Wagner accuse Davern of opportunism.
NEW YORK – Susan Zirinsky and her team at the CBS News magazine 48 Hours Mystery will be working well into the night to finish a segment about the death of Natalie Wood that they first started pursuing last summer.
It will air tomorrow at 10 p.m., one week earlier than planned, after the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s office provided the ultimate news hook by announcing Thursday that they would re-open the case.
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“It’s going to be a long night,” Zirinsky told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday. “We’ll be running to air control with that show.”
Wood drowned on Nov. 29, 1981 while boating with her husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken near Catalina Island. Her death was ruled an accident.
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The 48 Hour Mystery installment is a collaboration with Vanity Fair, which will publish a “bookazine” under the umbrella title “Hollywood Scandals.” In addition to the Wood case, Vanity Fair and CBS also will revisit the stabbing death of Lana Turner’s Mafioso boyfriend Johnny Stompanato and “Miranda,” the mystery woman whose phone calls seduced a bevy of Hollywood’s top actors.
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So what was originally scheduled to air Nov. 26, in the middle of the Thanksgiving holiday as empty post-holiday TV calories, has morphed into actual news.
CBS has interviewed Dennis Davern, captain of Wood and Wagner’s boat the Splendour, and Marti Rulli, Davern’s longtime friend who co-authored with Davern the 2009 book Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour. The CBS crew filmed onboard the Splendour. They’ve also talked to Roger Smith, the paramedic who took Wood’s body to shore; Mart Crowley, a personal friend of Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner; Marilyn Wayne who was on a nearby boat that night; and Detective Duane Rasure of the L.A. Country Sheriff’s department who was the original investigator on the case.
A longtime CBS News producer and ep of 48 Hours, Zirinsky said she knew that Davern and Rulli had taken additional information to the LA County Sheriff’s office and that the authorities were looking at that material.
VIDEO: Natalie Wood Boat Captain Continues Media Blitz on CNN
“There has to be at least enough interest or pressure to take a look at it,” she says. “Am I going to say that I think there’s a homicide here? Not by a long shot. But it’s an enduring mystery.”
At a press conference today, L.A. County sheriff’s detective John Corina said there was “substantial” and “credible” information to re-open the case, though he noted that Wagner is not a suspect.
VIDEO: ’48 Hours’ Natalie Wood Special Reveals Boat Captain’s Untold Story
Wagner released a statement yesterday clearly indicating that the family thinks Davern is attempting to profit from his new recollections about the case.
“ fully support the efforts of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. and trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30 year anniversary of her tragic death.”
VIDEO: Natalie Wood’s Boat Captain Admits to Lying, Says Robert Wagner ‘Responsible’ for Her Death
And indeed Davern made the media rounds Friday; appearing on CNN and NBC’s Today where he was grilled by David Gregory about his motives for coming forward.
“The implication here is that you may be an opportunist,” said Gregory.
“You cannot step away from the fact that it took Dennis Davern a long time to come to his truthfulness,” adds Zirinksy. “You cannot step back from the fact that Dennis Davern accepted money for this story, not from CBS, but earlier on and also wrote a book. And so somewhere in there lies the truth. However, this mystery has gone on for 30 years. It’s time for the sea to give up its secrets.”