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Detectives find no evidence of foul play in Natalie Wood's death

January 10, 2012 |  4:02 pm

SplendourThe L.A. County Sheriff's Department has uncovered no new evidence in the death of Natalie Wood to suggest that her demise was anything but an accident, a top official said Tuesday.

William McSweeney, the sheriff’s chief of detectives, told The Times that several weeks of new interviews and other investigative work has uncovered no evidence that Wood's death was a homicide.

 “At this point, it is an accidental death. Nothing has been discovered to suggest changing that at this time,” he said.

He said detectives are still looking at some aspects of the case, making sure smaller questions not answered in the original investigation are addressed. McSweeney said that in such cold cases files are never really closed and they can be pulled off the shelf anytime information comes in that's worth looking at.

But he said he's doubtful that more investigating will change the overall conclusion that her death was an accident.

On Thanksgiving weekend 1981, Wood, 43, was off Catalina Island on the yacht she owned with husband Robert Wagner when she somehow went into the water and died. Actor Christopher Walken, then her costar in the film "Brainstorm," was also aboard.

Officials at the time ruled her death an accident, but there has since been much speculation about whether there was more to the story.

Authorities at the time said that on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 28, the boat had anchored off Catalina and Wood, Wagner and Walken had dinner at Doug's Harbor Reef restaurant. Later, they returned to the yacht and had drinks.

Wagner and Walken told officials they 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.

FULL COVERAGE: Natalie Wood investigation reopened

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 aboard 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.

When the department reopened the case in November, detectives said several sources had come forward with new information.


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Natalie Wood investigation prompted by boat captain's comments

-- Richard Winton

Photo: The yacht from which Natalie Wood apparently fell to her death in 1981. Credit: Associated Press