Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Natalie Wood investigation prompted by boat captain's comments

November 17, 2011 |  5:53 pm

Detectives decided to reopen the investigation into the death of actress Natalie Wood in part because of statements made by the captain of the boat Wood was on at the time of her death.

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca told The Times that homicide detectives want to talk to the captain based on comments he had made recounting the case on its 30th anniversary. Baca did not detail what the captain said regarding the case 

“He made comments worthy of exploring,” Baca said.

PHOTOS: Natalie Wood | 1938-1981

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

Officials ruled that Wood's  drowning death while boating off Santa Catalina Island was an accident. But there has been much speculation about the circumstances surrounding her death.

"Recently sheriff’s homicide investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning. Due to the additional information, Sheriff’s homicide bureau has decided to take another look at the case," the department said in a statement.

Wood and Robert Wagner first married in 1957 and divorced five years later. Both went on to marry other people -- and have children. They remarried in 1972.

ARCHIVES: Natalie Wood's death

On Thanksgiving weekend 1981, Wagner and Wood had invited actor Christopher Walken to be their guest on Catalina aboard their boat, the Splendour. On the evening of Nov. 29, they had dinner and drinks at Doug's Harbor Reef. They returned to the boat and continued to drink until a heated argument erupted between the two men.

Wagner told The Times in 2008 that the argument concerned how much of one's personal life should be sacrificed in pursuit of one's career; he was upset that Walken was advocating that Wood give her all to her art, even at the expense of her husband and children.

Wood left to go to the master cabin's bathroom. Wagner says he and Walken eventually calmed down and said good night. When he went to bed, he says, Wood wasn't there. It is believed that the yacht's dinghy had come loose and that Wood came up on deck to tie it up.

"I have gone over it so many millions of times with people. Nobody heard anything," Wagner told The Times in 2008.


ARCHIVES: Natalie Wood's death

Robert Wagner supports inquiry into Natalie Wood's death

Natalie Wood investigation prompted by boat captain's comments

--Andrew Blankstein, Richard Winton and Sam Allen

Photo: 1981 Los Angeles Times front page.