Natalie Wood’s 1981 death is being re-investigated with new, sketchy evidence


This is for you bitches who used to beg me to write about vintage Hollywood scandals. In 1981, Natalie Wood’s body was found floating in the ocean a mile from Splendor, the boat she shared with her husband, Robert Wagner. They had been anchored just off of Catalina Island, and at the time, the story was that Natalie was either buzzed or completely drunk, and she had slipped and fallen off of the boat. The idea of Natalie’s accidental drowning was made worse by the fact that she had a well-documented fear of water – and I don’t think she could swim, either. On the boat with Natalie that night: the captain of the boat, Natalie’s husband Robert Wagner and Natalie’s then-current costar, Christopher Walken. There was controversy, gossip and whispers about Natalie’s death at the time, but it was ruled as an accident… until now. The LA County Sheriff’s Office has just reopened the case because they say they have new evidence:

What happened to Natalie Wood?

That is the question the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office hopes to answer regarding the Nov. 29, 1981, death of the adored movie star, it was announced late Thursday.

On Friday morning’s Today show, the captain of the boat Wood fled the night of her drowning alleged that her husband, Robert Wagner, was responsible for her death.

“I made mistakes by not telling the honest truth in a police report,” Dennis Davern also said on the NBC program.

Saying they had new information about Wood’s death – some of it apparently form Davern – sheriff’s officials have decided to reopen the investigation, according to Deputy Benjamin Grubb.

Wood, a child actress (1947′s Miracle on 34th Street) who went on to A-list status after 1955′s Rebel Without a Cause, 1961′s West Side Story and 1963′s Love With the Proper Stranger, was 43 when she mysteriously drowned while boating off Southern California’s Catalina Island.

When found, Wood’s body was floating about a mile away from the yacht carrying her husband and the actor Christopher Walken, Wood’s costar in the movie Brainstorm, which she was shooting at the time. The autopsy called the death an accident, though the tragedy has long been shrouded in gossip and speculation.

A spokesman for Wagner, 81, commenting on news that the case is being reopened, said in a statement, “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.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that homicide detectives wish to speak to Davern, the captain of the yacht, which was named Splendour (Wood starred in 1961′s Splendor in the Grass), after comments he made recounting Wood’s death on its 30th anniversary.

Without elaborating, Sheriff Lee Baca told the newspaper that what Davern said was “worthy of exploring.” Davern co-authored a book published last year, Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, and said there were arguments aboard the yacht the night of the drowning.

Boat Captain Grilled
Grilled by NBC’s David Gregory on Friday’s Today show, Davern said in response to several direct questions that he thought Wagner was responsible for Wood’s death, and that he and Wagner did not do all they should have the night she died. Davern also said that Wagner told him (Davern) not to take any steps to locate Wood once she left the boat, and that he and Wagner later agreed on what they would tell police.

“Any message you would want to tell Robert Wagner this morning?” Gregory asked Davern. “No,” he replied.

“I just want the truth to come out, the real story,” Natalie’s younger sister, Lana Wood, told CNN last year. “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.”

A news conference on the matter has been scheduled by the Sheriff’s Department for Friday at 11 a.m. West Coast time.

[From People]

In September, 2009, The Enquirer excerpted the boat captain’s (Dennis Davern’s) book. According to Davern’s account of the evening, Wagner and Wood were fighting ABOUT Christopher Walken. Wagner believed Walken wanted to sleep with Natalie, and that Natalie was encouraging Walken. Davern claims the fight continued for hours, fueled by alcohol, and that the screaming fight turned physical. Davern identified Natalie’s body, and he claims that he saw bruises on her arms and legs that were from Wagner’s abuse, not her fall. He also claims that Wagner was with Natalie when she fell into the water, and Wagner encouraged the cover-up.

So, is it possible that Robert Wagner has gotten away with murder all this time? I don’t know. My mom always thought Wagner was fishy, though.





Archival photos of Wood, additional pics by WENN.

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105 Responses to “Natalie Wood’s 1981 death is being re-investigated with new, sketchy evidence”

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  1. Sumodo1 says:

    This was rumored at the time of Natalie’s death and nothing was proven, then. Why now? A new book? This poor family. And, Christopher Walken! He was considered a stud at that time.

  2. jen says:

    Wagner’s story has always been that she must have been trying to get into the dinghy to get to shore, but that late at night in her nightgown, socks & a down jacket…methinks not.

  3. mln76 says:

    She was such a beautiful woman. I believe Wagner was guilty. He ended up marrying so quickly afterwards to a woman he was rumored to be sleeping with. This was so obviously covered up.

  4. brin says:

    She was the most beautiful woman, I hope they find the truth about what happened for her family’s sake.

  5. Eve says:

    I always thought that the circumstances of her death sounded sketchy as hell.

    @ Sumodo1:

    He must have looked like this around that time (Dogs of War is from 1980):

    Looks a little bit like Michael Shannon, non?

  6. maggiegrace says:

    I’ve adored Natalie Wood and her work since I was a child. She led a somewhat troubled life, but was a lovely person, inside and out (according to her biography). The details of her death were not ever known, but she was found a ways away from the larger boat, along side a little boat it seemed that she had gone out on. Why she would have done this in the middle of the night given her fear of water was never known. She and Wagner did have a big fight that night. Why the hell would the captain come out with this after all of these years? What good does it so? It will be he said/he said…they can never prove anything.

  7. Dizzybenny says:

    Walken was on the boat while they were screaming and yelling?Did Walken ever mentioned that before?
    The guy wasent talking after 3,4,8,12,16,22 no he took 30 years to say what ”really” happend.
    Sure the death is bizarre no question about that.I have my own theory then,she came up on the deck late at night to get some air because she was tipsy,good ol’ captain tried to get a kiss or more she slapped him he shoved her in the water and let her drown.
    How’s that?

  8. crazymary says:

    The captain has been saying this for a very long time. Very, very interesting. She was beautiful.

  9. Bite me says:

    So naturally pretty… Hope her family will get some answers

  10. tripmom says:

    I was wondering when you were going to get to this!

  11. Juilia says:

    She was so beautiful and cute at the same time. I hope they get through it this time and that we can know the whole truth.

  12. Anaya says:

    I wonder what Natalie’s children think of the possibility that their mother may have been murdered. It’s all very sad but maybe now the real truth will come out.

  13. LeManda says:

    Why did the Captain not say anything until 2009????

  14. Veruca says:

    Wagner has said that he’s always ‘blamed himself for her death’. Interesting choice of words… and the whole thing was shady. (Unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember.)

  15. Yessiiirrreee says:

    mln, just a FYI, Wagner didn’t marry Jill St. John until 9 yrs after Natalie’s death, however they did shack up together, very shortly after Natalie’s murder. Very suspicious.

    Oh well, even if it comes to pass that he had something to do with Natalie’s death, it could just be ruled as a manslaughter case…and he is 81 yrs old…he probably would get only probation after all this time.

  16. Talie says:

    Her sister was interviewed by TMZ and she seems to believe her sis was murdered.

  17. Hautie says:

    I now want to see the 48 hours show they are doing about this case.

    And it was all very sketchy when it happen. But at that time the famous was still treated a lot different from everyday people.

    I wonder if Nancy Grace will make this her new cause. She needs something to rail on about. This would be perfect for her.

  18. Diane says:

    Why after 30 years? Is this a deathbed confession of sorts? Hopefully he’s not in it for money.

  19. Jayna says:

    She was so stunning. New Hollywood girls mostly all look the same. That era produced some spectacular actresses with class.

  20. Kaiser says:

    Re: The Captain & why he’s talking now…

    He just got sober recently. He claims he drowned in alcoholism for decades after Wood’s death out of guilt.

  21. DH says:

    Men kill their wives all the time- why was it so hard to believe a movie star could do the same thing? Natalie was petrified of drowning, it was well documented throughout her life. She and Wagner had a tumultuous relationship, and that night had been fighting. The bedroom was trashed-they were drunk, bottles were smashed, she was bruised, she was in her pajamas. The coroner report showed bruises all over her wrists and thighs- you don’t bruise when you drown in freezing water. Wagner was drunk and the night before she died they had fought too, over Wagners jealousy regarding Walken. That captain took her ashore the night before she died- to stay at a hotel, to get her away from Wagner- only to have her die the next night. Wagner did it, even if he pushed her in on accident, he didnt help her out. No one talked because he and Natalie were big time celebrities and no one wanted to believe it. Wagner killed her, the captain knew it. Could you imagine having everyone know your fear of drowning, not being able to swim, then have your abusive, drunk, jealous husband come after you (when you left your room with nothing but a coat and pajamas)? People heard her screaming- Because of him she is dead, and he went on to be the poor husband who quickly remarried. After she went into the water, he told Walken and the captain that she was in the bedroom, sulking… when really she was drowning, just as she feared.

    • Rob says:

      It’s not really fair that she doesn’t get to live her life out. There should have been a better investigation. From what I feel it was a disgraceful one.

  22. fabgrrl says:

    Can you please, please include a picture of 1980s-era Christopher Walken? I love him so.

  23. Happymom says:

    Yes, the whole thing was so sketchy-and I am old enough to remember when it happened. That said-there’s no way after all of this time to know for sure.

  24. Jayna says:

    I know I might be in the minority, but let it rest. I believe they both were very drunk and very high and volatile that night and something happened but I don’t believe he ever intentionally meant to kill her. He loved her. Even her daughter from her second marriage after Robert and Natalie’s first marriage lived with him and was raised by Robert after her mom’s death. All the children love him and I would hate to see more heartbreak.

  25. yt says:

    If Natalie’s sister Lana thinks the death needs to be re-investigated, then it does not. If Lana had been on the boat that night, she would be the one to be investigated if only because of her shady reputation and need for attention.

    If the captain had any real information, he should have told the police at the time, not bring it out years later in a book. This type of publicity will certainly increase book sales.

  26. Po says:

    I remember reading about this a long time ago and the captain didn’t just start saying all of this 2 years ago. What I always thought was curious was how she got those bruises on her arms and legs if she simply fell in and drowned. Also, Walken would never really talk about that night. It all seemed very fishy and I wonder what new evidence caused then to reopen this investigation after 30 years.

  27. mln76 says:

    @Yessiiirrreee thanks I didn’t know that.

    People don’t realize that Wagner although he was never a big actor was definitely a pet of the studio system with powerful friends who would be more than capable of covering up this death. This is long before the 24 hr news cycle, TMZ or Radar Online and it would have been easy to paint this as a tragic ‘mishap’ which it clearly wasn’t. Too many suspicious things happened.

  28. becky says:

    She just made me want to in hoop earrings.

  29. fabgrrl says:

    Everything else aside, I wouldn’t put too much into anything Lana Wood says. She has always tried to famewhore on her sister – in life and in death.

  30. irishserra says:

    What I find interesting is Alan Nierob’s comment as a spokesperson for Wagner. It’s not a flat out denial. Remorseful perhaps?

  31. Eve says:

    @ Fabgrrl (# 22):

    I posted two links to Walken’s pictures circa 1980 on my comment # 5.

  32. Ell says:

    I don’t understand why the fight is being pushed as something new. At the time it was widely known there was a fight between Robert and Natalie about her close relationship with Christopher Walken.

    Natalie Wood’s death really got to me, there was something very fragile about her. As for what happened, nothing would surprise me.

  33. Scout says:

    @#24 Jayna – I am so with you and very glad to learn that someone else thinks like I do. She was drinking, too, and that would totally explain why she would try to escape the larger boat in the smaller one to get to shore – even while in her pajamas, etc. People do alot of crazy stuff under the influence – stuff they would never do otherwise. As for the bruises, granted that is not easily explained away. However, even if RW grabbed her wrists forcefully, that does not mean he killed her and it is known they had a volatile relationship – on both sides! And the other bruises could have been sustained in the effort to get off the boat or just by bumping into things in her drunken state. Some people, including me, can get all kinds of bruises by just slightly bumping into something on my own. Finally, this captain coming forth all those years later is, IMO, is fishy in and of itself.

    I have to say, also, that these have to be the worst photos ever of Robert Wagner! He was a very good looking man and this particular selection of pics seems geared to make him look like a creep. I have no idea if he is one, by the way, but I do know he was very handsome and at least one good photo of him could have been included!

  34. ShanKat says:

    Because *this* is what LA County should be spending its no-money on.

    Celebrity murderers go free in L.A. Especially well-connected ones, like RJ.

  35. Turd Fergussen says:

    Hmmm. I read a biography about her, and one thing that the author brought up again and again was the rumors surrounding Wagner’s sexuality, as many many actors back in that day were closeted. It was suggested that perhaps Natalie walked in on a tryst between Wagner and Walken (hard for me to believe about Walken) and that *that* was the impetus for the fight and her subsequently being thrown overboard. Far fetched, but I’m just throwing it out there.

  36. brin says:

    I remember a show about her life (probably “Biography”) and it was so haunting to me that her fear of water was always a big part of her life, she almost drowned in a movie role. So sadly ironic that she died that way.

  37. L says:

    Her sister Lana has always been trying for attention, so I wouldn’t take her at her word.

    My parents remember this, (they are from the area), and their take was always it was less about her trying to get to shore and more the dingy was probably banging on the side of the yacht and making lots of noise. She goes out to tighten it (not going to talk to walken/wagner because she was in nightclothes), and being drunk slipped and fell in. It’s pretty well known that all three of them were toasted that night.

    What are you really going to find out 30 years later? The captain was drunk and said so. He has a book out. Three men on the boat and the guys target is Robert Wagner? Weird.

  38. clare says:

    I remember a tasteless joke that made the rounds after she died – “What kind of Wood doesn’t float?”

    Natalie Wood was so gorgeous. And a genuine person.

    The Daily Mail just had an article that compared Robo-Katie Holmes to Natalie Wood! It was offensive.
    Look into Natalie Wood’s eyes, and then look into Katie Holmes’ eyes.

  39. Jaded says:

    It’s ironic that she was working on Brainstorm, one of my all-time favourite movies, with Walken when she drowned. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a group of scientists working on a type of device that records brain waves and transmits the sensations to the wearer of the device. It accidentally records the death of one of the scientists (Louise Fletcher), thereby proving there is a spiritual life after death. She and Walken played a divorcing couple who still seem to love each other. So sad….I think I’ll get the movie out and watch it tonight.

  40. lucy2 says:

    I will be interested to see how this pans out. I don’t know much about it, but it always sounded suspicious to me. Accidents do happen, but it always seemed like there was much more to this story.

  41. Kiki says:

    What does Walken say about this? He was as much of a witness as the Captain. I believe it could have been an accident. I mean, if you’re being abused or mistreated by your husband, and you’re drunk, and all you wanna do is escape the situation, in fear for your life, wouldn’t you feel brave enough to take that boat and run off as quickly as possible?
    At the end, though, I guess he was responsible for her death in one way or another. Maybe he feels that way and that’s why he took care of her children like someone mentioned here.

  42. JaneWonderfalls says:

    To be honest after reading about this story years ago, I felt like it never made any sense to me and after seeing her documentary about her extreme fear of water, things never added up for me as an “accident” I’m not saying Wagner killed her but things just didn’t make much sense to me how she died. But I agree with some of the comments why keep opening up old wounds, if they did not find evidence to support back than, what more can they find.

  43. gg says:

    I totally agree with kiki. People do really crazy stuff when they’re drunk, pissed off at their husband and want TO piss off their husband, and want to get away just any way they can.

    Also, I thought Walken way gay ?

  44. G says:

    THIS folks, is what a pre botox-restalyn-fueled NATURAL beauty used to look like.

  45. fabgrrl says:

    Walken has never talked about this, to my knowledge. I think that something sketchy happened that night, but I just don’t think it was outright murder. I theorize that Walken is either is not talking A) out of respect for Wood’s memory (she was suicidal or had a drug problem) or B) they were having an affair (Mmmm, sexy! I think Walken was SO.HOT in his 30s) and he doesn’t want it revealed.

  46. Deb says:

    My mom and I used to watch her movies together. I remember my mom telling me about how she died, and thought it seemed suspicious. Even as a kid, I didn’t find it very plausible that someone who was afraid of water would even get close enough to it to fall in.

  47. Dani says:

    @ 43 G – Amen. That is what a star used to look like. Natalie was beautiful and talented both.

    I don’t know where the truth lies in this story and certainly 30 years after the fact can only complicate an investigation. Hope they get to the truth.

    On a lighter note, I will say one thing that RW is guilty of and that is wearing a really bad mustasche.

  48. Rita says:

    This stinks to high heaven and it always has. Natalie’s dead body had 25 bruises on it when she was fished out of the water. Wagner’s account never added up and this case was closed with far too much convience. It’s incredible that she could have been murdered and yet people can bury the incident like they did.

    What a beautiful woman she was.

  49. mia girl says:

    Agree with all those who mentioned that her sister Lana has always been an attention seeker.

    Also agree with @scout that it wouldn’t have hurt to include one good picture of Wagner from the days he was married to Natalie – unless the point was to make him seem monstrous!

    And for everyone on this thread, if you have never seen “Splendor in the Grass” Netflix it quick! Woods is so beautiful, and it is Warren Beatty’s first film. As a kid I never understood the fascination women had with Beatty and then I saw that film. Wow.

  50. Elizabeth says:

    There were stories out at the time of her death that all 3 of them (Wagner, Wood, Walken) had been drinking, that Wood and Walken were having an affair on the set of their movie and that Wood and Wagner argued about her involvement with Walken. Her fear of water was also very well known and discussed at that time – i.e. questions as to why she would get in a dinghy when she was terrified of the water. Not much new here – but her death is still very mysterious. Too bad for her children this is all coming up again.

  51. BYBoo says:

    For those of you suspecting foul play, wondering why someone so deathly afraid of water would climb into a dinghy in the middle of the night in pajamas- people do things that don’t make “sense” when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Also, technically Natalie was already on a boat with people she trusted so it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that she would try to leave on the smaller boat or just fell overboard and the smaller boat was released to cover it up. Something fishy could have happened that night but it is a coincidence that on the 30th anniversary of her death now this captain has a story to tell.

  52. G says:

    While this story never really “made sense,” the fact is that a lot of tragedies don’t.

    It is also the 30th aniversary of her death, so this new revelation could seem a bit contrived for a cash in?

  53. Cheyenne says:

    I didn’t believe that “accidental death” BS report at the time she died and I don’t believe it now.

  54. Criss says:

    Her death was always sketchy. Why wouldn’t you frantically search for her and call the coast guard asap. Crazy. If she had a life vest on she could have been found in time.

  55. yt says:

    I always wondered why the captain did not secure the dinghy that night so it would not disturb anyone. Oh. Right. He was drunk too. If he were sober, he would have heard anyone moving around on board. He may have passed out before the fight ended.

  56. Kim says:

    My step father used to be Natalie & Roberts captain when they went to Catalina and retired right before this incident.

    He always said it was foul play. He said he was sure alcohol played a big part but definitely foul play.

  57. MAMAKOWALSKA says:

    I think that it’s very interesting what her sister say’s!!! I believe her!!! Robert Wagner always looks just like the devil to me in his pictures, somethings not right and this just won’t rest.

  58. fabgrrl says:

    @gg Also, I thought Walken way gay ?

    I have never, ever heard that one.

  59. Diane says:

    It’s also quite possible that since everyone was so blitzed out of their minds they simply don’t remember what really happened.

  60. Blue says:

    I wasn’t even born when this happened but I read that Wagner didn’t want the captain calling the coastguard? And a witness heard a woman screaming for help? The whole thing sounds sketchy and makes me say “hmmm” and there are many qurstions. I do think it might be manslaughter.

  61. Blue says:

    Involuntary manslaughter

  62. glyrics says:

    Didn’t his career effectively end with Wood’s death? And that Walken was gutless for not telling the truth. He is creepy.

  63. bluhare says:

    Looking at her, I can certainly see the resemblance to Catherine Zeta Jones.

    And Natalie Wood’s in my favorite Christmas movie — Miracle on 34th Street. The original version. I’m going to have to dig that out and have a double bill with Love Actually!

  64. Meghan says:

    As soon as it came on the news my Mom was all “I knew it was the husband!” and she hadn’t even heard the story, just the “Natalie Wood’s death being re-investigated” part.

  65. SueAnn says:

    I bet this is eating up at her children with Wagner.

  66. Mairead says:

    @ glyrics, nope – his biggest fame came after her death in Hart to Hart with Stephanie Powers, especially outside the USA.

    If there is something suspicious around any circumstance of death, then it is right to objectively investigate it.
    It isn’t ok to throw around wild accusations without any evidence, especially as eyewitness accounts aren’t necessarily reliable.

    As for how a person with a fear of water could drown – well, I’m afraid that death can be ironic like that. A guy from my school, who likewise had a fear of water (despite us being from a coastal area on the Atlantic seaboard). He was abroad and was drinking one night in a wooded area with another person from our region. The friend fell asleep and when he woke up my schoolmate had vanished. Years later a quarry was searched and his body (along with a few other poor souls) was found.
    Ditto people had become a little suspicious of the friend because our guy was reliable and had a well-known fear of water.

    Basically drunk, tired people can become disorientated and fall into the water.

  67. wunder says:

    Her mom didnt want her to marry him for a very good reason: She saw what RW really was. . . Now Mr. Walken needs to also step forward and tell the truth about that night!

    Methinks this might have been a love triangle gone wrong.

    (btw: CW is not gay. He was also married-and still is to the same woman-at the time NW’s death occured. . . That said, if there was an affair going on between him and his co-star NW, CW might have wanted to keep a low profile and not talk very much becuz it could have exposed the affair.)

  68. mln76 says:

    I don’t think Walken is gay. I happen to know a woman who had an affair with him way back in the day. Apparantly the police chief issued a statement that Wagner isn’t a suspect.

  69. fabgrrl says:

    I wouldn’t care one way or the other if Walken is gay. But I don’t think he is, he doesn’t ping in the slightest. I think he has been quietly married to the same woman for, like, 40 years.

    {Does anyone else wonder if Kevin Durand’s mother “met” Walken 37-38 years ago?}

  70. Patricia says:

    Natalie specifically asked her daughter Natasha’s father Richard Gregson to allow her to be raised with her sister Courtney (by Wagner) if anything happened to her. she wanted them to gtow up to be close.

  71. Patricia says:

    I just saw Lana’s interview on this at TMZ. Very interesting, especially when she says that Natalie was intentionally left in the water to “teach her a lesson”–plus, she mentions that in his book, RJ says things about Natalie that simply are not true.

  72. F5 says:

    Don’t worry, Nancy Grace will solve this one :D

  73. pwal says:

    I’m glad that they’re taking another look at this. Mind you, it’s kinda weird that this is happening now – the West Side Story Blu-Ray ads have been running like crazy.

    But back to RW… I just felt that he got a lot more mileage (and spotlight) after Natalie died. He was the tragic widower and he was treated with kid gloves.

    And for those bagging on Christopher Walken, it’s a bit unfair. Why should he disclose what happened to the general public? Yes, if he had information, he should’ve told the cops. As far as I’m concerned, his remaining mum about this, publicly, is a wise move.

    Hell… just a few weeks ago, people were pissed off that Kris Jenner insinuated herself into the Brown/Goldman murders. There are some things that shouldn’t be used as an angle for making money or getting extra shine. JMO.

  74. Charlottean says:

    #21 is absolutely correct, that is exactly what I think happened…poor Natalie, her life was cut short way too soon :(

  75. Jag says:

    I remember seeing shows about her death back in the 70′s and 80′s, and it always seemed to me that Wagner killed her. The bruises on wrists and thighs, though, sounds like she might’ve been raped. I hope the truth comes out and those who were involved are prosecuted!

  76. Elle says:

    Even if someone is drunk, if he/she is afraid/scared of water, they will stay away. And the bruises?

    But there must be much more behind. Why just because of jealousy because of an actor who is looking gay one will kill his beautiful woman, whom he married twice? That makes no sense to me.

    More that she treatend to leave him and drove him nuts. Or she might have found something negative out about RW. If she fall accidently, and he was there, he would have done all to get her out. So it kinda looks like he did it on purpose. Maybe he beaten her and she said she will make that public. And yes, if he raped her
    and she threaten to go public with it, he might killed her.

  77. Wylie says:

    What is awful is the supposed “eyewitness” who said she heard a woman, yelling, “help! get me out”or something for 15 minutes! and then a male voice saying, hold on we’re coming we’re coming..sort of implied that the male was annoyed and not in a hurry. or something like that..sorry I can’t remember exactly. but that sounds awful! and why didn’t this “eyewitness” call the police? If that is true, than it goes along with the captain saying Wagner wanted to teach her a lesson..

  78. Peg says:

    Good. I’m glad they are reopening this case. Next: Investigate the murder of Shatner’s wife!!!

  79. Emily says:

    Yes to vintage Hollywood scandals!!!!!!!!

    (And down with the Kardashians!)

  80. Violet says:

    My understanding is that they were all drunk, and she died through misadventure. The rumor was that she and Walken were having an affair, but that she had an open marriage so Robert Wagner was okay with it.

    I don’t think she was murdered, and this investigation is likely going to upset her daughters for nothing.

  81. Cerulean says:

    That does sound awfully sketchy. Too many holes. If alcohol makes people do weird things then maybe the alcohol made Robert push her overboard in a rage.

    She was absolutely stunning. Those eyes!

  82. dahlia1947 says:

    I love everything classic Hollywood! More of this please. My man said that maybe the person that had something on the captain, died so now he (captain) is able to come forward w more info.

  83. It seems everybody’s lawyering up …and wisely so. Natalie Wood’s death was always suspicious. Poor woman.

  84. TG says:

    Why was she on a boat if she couldn’t swim? and I second dahlia1947 – I love hollywood classic stories.

  85. kim says:

    I have always beleived Robert Wagner had a hand in her death

  86. brin says:

    @Peg….and Grace Kelly, her car accident was another mystery (was she driving or was her young daughter?).

  87. midnightmoon says:

    If you reaad the document posted on TMZ’s site (there’s also a video that I can’t vieew on my Crapberry) the statements offered by the captain, the woman who heard NW crying for help, and the Coast Guard captain who was demoted & reassigned elsewhere will hang together & make sense.

    After reading those statements, when you read Lana’s statement, a deep chill of recognition might afflict you, as it did me: if she’s telling the truth, then R1 is a stone cold narcissist. His statements to the public ring true in light of Lana’s assessment: self-pitying & deeply self-serving.

    As someone who fell under the spell of a true sociopath, I recognize all the signs. It takes me but a minute to ‘read’ domeone’s behavior, now that I know the indicators, and I spent several years studying, believe you me, after I was (luckily) cast loose by the bastard. I got off easy!

    I know that it’s morbid to go back 30 year, but I will do some reading on this. The book, btw was published years ago, and the captain the coast guard guy HAVE been trying to get heard. I guess this time it worked.

    The story of that poor girl found hanging off an upstairs patio, with her hands & feet bound in duct tape, whose death was ruled a suicide (until the uproar, which caused the reopening of her case) should tell you what you need to know about our ‘criminal justice’ system. Frankly-you rich, you most likely walk.

    Yes! Shatner’s wife! And there are a few others that are worthy of mention, if I could only remember which ones-brain injury SUCKS!

  88. theaPie says:

    How in the hell, could you listen to someone cry for help for 20 minutes and do NOTHING??!! I reckon that’s about as long as she could last in the 52 degree water hanging off the side of the dingy.


  89. Valerie says:

    I believe it was RW that released the dingy to make it look like she had left on her own so they wouldn’t go looking for her until it was too late.
    I love NW since I was little but whatever happened can never be proved without a full confession, so this is a waste of time.

  90. kibbles says:

    I believe Robert Wagner murdered Natalie, covered up his crime, and had the money and influence to avoid a full investigation and testimony from the witnesses. Unfortunately, domestic violence is still widespread and it was even more so 30 years ago. I hope the truth will surface but unless Wagner confesses he won’t go to prison regardless of what the witnesses say now.

  91. Kelly says:

    The original official ruling of what happened to her has never made sense to me either. Wouldn’t the dinghy have been tied with 2 ropes so how could she “accidentally” release it? And why would a star like Natalie Wood try to leave the boat in nightgown and slippers? Supposedly the boat was trashed when the investigators got there the next day. And what the witnesses heard of someone asking for help and someone else saying we will come get you. The bruising, the scrape on her face, that doesn’t sound likely it would come from drowning or trying to board a dinghy. Supposedly Robert Wagner did not even go to ID her body.

    The case was never thoroughly investigated and if Robert Wagner had been just a regular Joe he probably would have been arrested on the spot. He has always creeped me out, he is all smiles but there doesn’t seem to be anything there behind that cheesy, smiley exterior. Well, I hope they find out what really happened. Natalie Wood deserves it, she was great, but it would have been nice had she focused more on her career in the 1970s. This all may have then been avoided.

  92. Peachy says:

    Chris has been cleared.

    Apparently, Natalie’s ghost visited the boat’s captain and he asked her how, considering they out at sea, she had even planned on getting back to shore.

    She replied “Well, it sure wasn’t Walken!”

    FTW – Bob, in the boat, with the dinghy

  93. Sassy says:

    I read a biography “My Sister Natalie” which was written by Lana Wood. Frankly, she is not a stable person and I wouldn’t believe anything she says. She used Natalie and Robert to get her into show biz. She never made it, however. I don’t think she was welcome in their home for various reasons.

    My take on the death? Accidental, but caused by the booze soaked sailors. All four.

  94. Statler says:

    Thank you for covering this.

  95. MayaMae says:

    Christopher Walken’s response to the investigation being re-opened: he lawyered up

    They waited 4 hours to notify the coastguard after they knew she was missing from the boat: unforgivable

    My mom is deathly afraid of drowning. She will go on yachts/boats but even drunk off her ass she would never attempt to climb into a dinghy.

  96. Marla says:

    If her body smacked up against rocks or a mooring of some kind that would explain the bruises…but she was found more than a mile out at sea. This was a shame. I was a young adult at the time and remember being unnerved by this death.

  97. Laughing Librarian says:

    God, she was beautiful. Her death struck me at the time as sudden and suspicious.

  98. Callumna says:

    Imagine today Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglass and George Clooney drinking on a boat while two are working on a reasonably big movie and Catherine ends up deceased. It would circus, wouldn’t it?

    Such a huge star disappeared and the press was there but almost a tad on the quiet side and over the years pretty sympathetic to the grieving husband instead of making money and careers off the whole tawdry thing?

    Sometimes good, sometimes bad but you have to say things SURE have changed.

  99. ZenB!tch says:

    Sadly, I’m old enough to remember most of this but Christopher Walken was a stud? I missed that part. Robert Wagner had a hit TV show at the time. He was huge. Everyone’s mom had a crush on him.

    My mom who knows more than I thinks it could have been Wagner. I think it would be more interesting if it was Walken or the Captain – but what would the motive be?

  100. Celeste says:

    I can’t believe people are asking “what good does it do” for the captain to come out with this now? Are you kidding? If these details are true, a person who has been guilty of murder all this time could finally brought to justice. What are you thinking, oh well, he got away with it this long, why bother punishing the old dude now? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. There’s no statute of limitations on murder, and it’s never to late to seek justice.

  101. Sakyiwaa says:

    WHOA! what a scandal!

  102. pwal says:

    Last night, I watched the 48 Hours segment about this. And apparently, RW was the first one who began to change his story, admitting that the champagne bottle was smashed during a ‘discussion’ with Christopher Walken. He did this in his 2009 book.

    So I don’t blame the captain for ‘admitting’ things now, since RW seemed to alibi himself by using Christopher Walken, leaving the question as to what was the captain doing while Natalie was in her room and during RW and CW’s ‘gabfest’.

    And frankly, some of the clips of RW talking about this, while promoting that book, seems like spin. He kept saying that the bottle was smashed while he and CW ‘talked’ – no… champagne bottles don’t get smashed during a calm, genial conversation.

  103. I don’t understand why now, if this captain knew what was going on, why did he not stop what ever was going on. He must be broke for money. I wonder if he could have blackmailed Robert Wagner. Well he is as guilty as Robert Wagner is. He cannot bring Natalie Wood back, let this woman rest in peace. I hate to hear of her children reliving this nightmare again. If there is nothing to investigate, leave it alone. If Robert Wagner had involment in Natalie Wood’s death he is going to pay threw the grace of God. You never get away with nothing because God and Jesus is following our pathes. So if he did, he better come clear. I pray for her daughters.

  104. gg says:

    Darn – how dramatic would it be to have somebody actually smash a heavy champagne bottle intentionally? Those things are not easy to break, and boat fixtures are usually not very heavy. I’d try to escape too … fear of water or no.