Natalie Wood: New info warrants reopening case, detective says
An L.A. County sheriff's homicide detective said Friday that new information investigators recently received about the 1981 death of actress Natalie Wood was substantial enough to cause them to reopen the case, but he said her husband, Robert Wagner, is not a suspect.
"As a homicide bureau, we are always open to receiving additional information about older cases and current cases," said Lt. John Corina. "If we receive information that we assess and deem credible or reliable, we are not opposed to reacting to it."
In answer to a question at a news conference at Sheriff's Department headquarters in Monterey Park, Corina reiterated that Wood's husband was not a suspect in her death off the coast of Catalina Island.
"Robert Wagner is not a suspect," he said.
He said several sources had come forward with new information that warranted "another look at the case."
He later said, "We’ll go wherever the investigation is going to take us," adding that the two investigators assigned to the reopened case would be talking to Dennis Davern, captain of Wagner's yacht, Splendour. Davern said on national TV Friday morning that he lied to investigators 30 years ago about some details of the case.
The 30th anniversary of Wood’s death is Nov. 29.
Davern said both in the TV interview and in a 2009 book he co-wrote that there was a heated argument between Wood and Wagner.
Wood, 43, was boating off Catalina Island on Thanksgiving weekend 1981 with Wagner and actor Christopher Walken when she somehow went overboard and died.
Officials at the time ruled her death an accident, but there has since been much speculation about whether there was more to the story.
Wagner on Thursday released a statement expressing support for a new investigation.
The actor "trusts 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," Wagner's spokesman, Alan Nierob, said in the statement.
Wood and Wagner spent the holiday weekend on their 60-foot yacht, Splendour, along with Walken, who at the time was Wood's costar in the film "Brainstorm."
On the evening of Saturday, Nov. 28, authorities said, the boat had anchored and the trio had dinner at Doug's Harbor Reef restaurant on Catalina. Later, they returned to the yacht and had drinks.
Wagner and Walken had 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.
They eventually calmed down and said goodnight, Wagner said, but when he went to bed, Wood wasn't there. Wagner thought that 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 without her returning, Wagner went to look for her on a small cruiser, the spokesman said. When he couldn't find her, he contacted the harbor patrol. Authorities discovered Wood's body about 8 a.m. Sunday, about a mile away from the yacht. The dinghy was found beached nearby.
-- Sam Allen in Monterey Park