Following the “48 Hours” bombshell investigation into the suspicious 1981 drowning of film star Natalie Wood, the L.A. County Sheriff’s office is addressing new eyewitness accounts which chronicle her last moments alive and paint her husband Robert Wagner as “crazy” and “angry.”
“There are new witnesses. We’ve interviewed a lot of new people,” Lt. John Corina of the LASD said during Monday’s press conference, adding that these reports do not “add up” with Wagner’s version of events.
The events surrounding the drowning death of the “West Side Story” star nearly 38 years ago off the coast of Catalina Island in California, has always been considered suspicious. Wood, who was reportedly unable to swim, vanished from the yacht wearing a nightgown and down jacket. Her body was discovered the next day, washed up on the shore.
On board the family’s yacht that night along with Wood and Wagner were the couple’s friend, Christopher Walken, and the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern. It is Davern’s testimony and that of new witnesses that has sparked a fresh look at the actress’ death with police confirming Wagner, 87, is a person of interest in the case.
“People who knew the couple or had knowledge of what was going on that weekend… it has been extremely helpful in recreating what happened,” Lt. Corina says.
Officials say the new eyewitness accounts corroborate with Davern’s claims that he overheard an intense argument between Wagner and Wood the night she went missing. Davern has stated the argument between the couple was so intense, he went to check on them in their stateroom, believing there was an assault happening.
Davern alleges Wagner’s behaviour was “crazy” and “angry” during the fight.
Wood’s body was found with multiple bruises, which investigators say were likely caused by another person – not the result of a drowning.
The “48 Hours” investigation explored the long-standing belief that the cause of Wagner’s rage was what he deemed to be Wood’s flirtatious behaviour towards Walken, reportedly smashing a bottle of wine and challenging the Deer Hunter” actor with, “What are you trying to do, f*** my wife?”
Officials state that Wagner’s original account of the events of that night in 1981 do not add up to the investigation’s findings or the accounts from several witnesses.
While he is considered a suspect, LASD have not yet spoken to the “Hart To Hart” actor who was the last person to see the “Rebel Without A Cause” actress alive. Corina adds that though actor is a person of interest, he is not obligated by law to speak with investigators.
Wagner was not interviewed following Wood’s death in 1981, though he shared his version of events in his 2009 memoir in which he says he assumed his wife had taken off in the yacht’s dinghy and headed to shore. The small boat was found about a mile from where her body was eventually discovered.
The actor’s behaviour has raised red flags for the boat’s captain, who says says that after discovering his wife was missing, Wagner sat and drank for over an hour before informing the Coast Guard and did not want to turn on the ship’s light to search for his missing wife in the rough waters.
Lt. Corina says there are added challenges given the amount of time that has passed since the night in question, with many of the witnesses and the original key investigators having since passed away, but he believes, they are “closer to understanding what happened.”