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Natalie Wood death probe yields more unanswered questions

July 9, 2012 |  9:01 am

PHOTOS: Natalie Wood investigation

Authorities are continuing their reexamination of the 1981 death of actress Natalie Wood but have not formed any solid conclusions about what happened, a law enforcement source told The Times on Monday.

The department surprised many by reopening the case last year, two weeks before the 30th anniversary of Wood's death. Some questioned the timing of the new probe — it coincided with a "48 Hours Mystery" television segment on the case, produced in partnership with Vanity Fair magazine. But officials said several sources had come forward to provide more information about what happened that night.

The law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing, said that probe continues and that detectives don't have enough information to classify the case as an accident or something else.

PHOTOS: Natalie Wood investigation

Last year, detectives interviewed many of those involved in the case. They also traveled to Hawaii to inspect the yacht Wood and others were aboard. It's unclear what more recent work has been done on the case.

Chief Coroner Craig Harvey said in a statement that a security hold had been placed on the Wood case, per a request from the Sheriff's Department.

"It is an open investigation and we are cooperating fully with the Sheriff's Department," Harvey said. "This department is making no comments at this time."

FULL COVERAGE: Natalie Wood investigation reopened

Wood, 43, was on a yacht off Catalina Island on the evening of Nov. 28, 1981 with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, and "Brainstorm" costar Christopher Walken when she somehow got into the water and died.

Wagner and Walken told officials they had an argument that evening but eventually calmed down. When Wagner went to bed, Wood wasn't there. He thought his wife had taken off on a small inflatable boat by herself, as she had done before, his spokesman later said.

But 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. the next day, about a mile away from the yacht. The dinghy was found beached nearby.

PHOTOS: Natalie Wood | 1938-1981

Officials at the time ruled her death an accident, but there has been much speculation ever since over whether there was more to the story. After the new investigation began, the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, gave several television interviews expressing skepticism about the original investigation and saying he believed that Wood was a victim of foul play.

But two months after reopening the case, a top sheriff's official told The Times it was highly unlikely any new light would be shed on how the actress died.

"At this point, it is an accidental death," said William McSweeney, the sheriff's chief of detectives. "Nothing has been discovered to suggest changing that at this time."


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— Richard Winton (twitter.com/lacrimes)

Photo: Natalie Wood and her husband, Robert Wagner, during the shoot for "All the Fine Young Cannibals," on Nov. 25, 1959. Credit: Associated Press