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Yacht captain blames Robert Wagner for Natalie Wood's death [Updated]

November 18, 2011 |  7:29 am

A yacht captain claimed Friday that he lied to investigators about Natalie Wood's mysterious death 30 years ago and that he blames the actress' husband at the time, Robert Wagner, for her drowning in the ocean off Southern California.

The former captain of the boat alleged on the "Today" show Friday that Wood's husband, actor Robert Wagner, was responsible for her death.

Dennis Davern said he is now urging homicide investigators to look into Wood's death.

PHOTOS: Natalie Wood | 1938-1981

[Updated at 8 a.m.: Authorities who investigated the case have long insisted there was no foul play involved in Wood's death.

At the time, L.A. County Coroner Thomas T. Noguchi ruled the death an accident, saying that Wood had slipped while trying to enter a dinghy and drowned. Bruises on Wood's left cheek were consistent with her having fallen and striking the yacht as she went into the water, he said at a news conference days after her death.

"It was not a homicide. It was not a suicide. It was an accident," Noguchi said.

Wagner could not immediately be reached for comment Friday morning. But he has also long said Wood's death was an accident.

In the 2008 interview about his memoir, "Pieces of My Heart," Wagner said it was "very difficult, very painful" to write about his wife's death.

"I have gone over it so many millions of times with people. Nobody heard anything," Wagner said.

Wagner said the evidence suggests "she had slipped and rolled into the water, which makes a lot of sense because the boat — when they found it, it hadn't been started and the oars were all in the same position. There was no evidence that she tried to get in it."]

She had been boating with Wagner and her "Brainstorm" costar Christopher Walken near Catalina Island when she drowned.

"I made some terrible decisions and mistakes," Davern told NBC News' David Gregory. "I did lie on a report several years ago." He added, "I made mistakes by not telling the honest truth in a police report."

The circumstances of her death remain one of Hollywood's enduring mysteries and continue to create renewed intrigue, with homicide detectives unexpectedly announcing Thursday that they were reopening a case that had long been classified as an accident.

A Los Angeles County sheriff's detective will speak to reporters Friday about the decision to take another look at the Oscar-nominated actress' nighttime demise in the chilly waters off Southern California on Nov. 29, 1981.

Wood drowned after spending several hours drinking on Catalina Island and on a yacht with Wagner, Walken and Davern.

“Was the fight between Natalie Wood and her husband Robert Wagner what ultimately led to her death?” the "Today" show's Gregory asked.

“Yes,” Davern replied.

“How so?”

“Like I said, that's going to be up to the investigators to decide,” the captain said.

Davern said he believes Wagner had intentionally kept the investigation into Wood's death low-profile and didn't do everything he could have done. When Gregory pressed Davern for supporting details, the captain said that was the duty of investigators.

Wagner spokesman Alan Nierob said a statement he released Thursday spoke for itself.

“Although no one in the Wagner family has heard from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department about this matter, they fully support the efforts of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department 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,” Nierob wrote in the statement.

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-- From Times wire reports

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