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Natalie Wood death accident, not murder, original detective says

November 21, 2011 |  5:53 pm

A detective on the original investigation into Natalie Wood's death said he is skeptical the case adds up to anything more than a tragic accident.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced last week it was reopening the case of Wood, who died during a Thanksgiving 1981 weekend boating cruise with husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken.

Officials said they reopened the case after being contacted by several people offering new information.

But retired sheriff's Det. Duane Rasure, who was on the original case, doubts the new probe will come up with a different result.

When investigating her death, he "never really got suspicious of a murder," Rasure told CBS News' "48 Hours."  "It was an accidental drowning. She just happened to be a famous movie star. She was a small lady. She drowned in a short time, I'd say."

Wood, 43, was boating off Santa Catalina Island when she somehow went overboard and drowned. Officials at the time ruled her death an accident, but speculation has persisted about whether there is more to the story.

On Saturday evening, Nov. 28, that year, Wood and Wagner's 60-foot yacht, Splendour, was anchored at Catalina, where they had dinner at Doug's Harbor Reef restaurant with Christopher Walken, who was Wood's costar in the film "Brainstorm" and was spending the holiday weekend with the couple.

FULL COVERAGE: Natalie Wood investigation reopened

Later, according to authorities, the trio returned to the yacht and had drinks, and Wagner and Walken got into an argument. Wagner said in a 2008 interview with The Times that the argument concerned how much of one's personal life should be sacrificed in pursuit of one's career and art.

The men eventually calmed down and said good night, Wagner said; but when he went to bed, Wood wasn't there.

 Wagner thought his wife had taken a small inflatable boat by herself, as she had done before, his spokesman said after the incident. After 10 to 15 minutes passed, Wagner went to look for her on a small cruiser, the spokesman said. When he didn't find her, he contacted the harbor patrol.

Authorities discovered Wood's body about 8 a.m. that Sunday, about a mile from the yacht. The dinghy was found beached nearby.


Robert Wagner supports inquiry into Natalie Wood's death

Yacht captain blames Robert Wagner for Natalie Wood's death

Natalie Wood investigation prompted by boat captain's comments

— Richard Winton and Shelby Grad

Photo: Wagner and Wood. Credit: WireImage