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Natalie Wood's sister campaigned for new probe into star's death

November 18, 2011 |  9:15 am

Natalie Wood's sister, Lana Wood, has been among those calling for a new investigation into the star's 1981 drowning death
Natalie Wood's sister, Lana Wood, has been among those calling for a new investigation into the star's 1981 drowning death off Catalina Island during a Thanksgiving weekend boating trip with husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced that it would reopen its probe into Natalie Wood's death after receiving undisclosed new information.

Lana Wood has given a series of interviews in recent years urging authorities to look at the case more thoroughly. In an interview with CNN last year, she said she believes that many details about what happened have not come out, but added that she didn't believe foul play was involved.

PHOTOS: Natalie Wood | 1938-1981

"I just want the truth to come out, the real story," she told the network. "My sister was not a swimmer and did not know how to swim, and she would never go to another boat or to shore dressed in a nightgown and socks."

Lana Wood also called for a new probe in an interview last year with KCBS-TV Channel 2, saying: "I need to know. And it's time for Natalie to rest."

Natalie Wood, 43, was boating off Catalina Island on Thanksgiving weekend 1981 with Wagner, Walken and others 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.

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca told The Times that detectives want to talk to the captain of the boat after learning of comments he recently made about events on board. Baca added only that the captain "made comments worthy of exploring."

A law enforcement source added that the Sheriff's Department recently received a letter from an unidentified "third party" who said the captain had "new recollections" about the case. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

Wagner released a statement through his spokesman 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, then 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.


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, Sam Allen, Andrew Blankstein and Shelby Grad

Photo: The Los Angeles Times front page article reporting Natalie Wood's 1981 death. Credit: Los Angeles Times