Was Natalie Wood’s death an accident? Investigators looking into her drowning death have said her then-husband, Robert Wagner, is now a ‘person of interest.’
Nearly forty years after Natalie Wood was found dead, floating in the waters off of Catalina Island, new evidence has raised some questions about what really happened to the West Side Story actress. Investigators tell CBS’s 48 Hours that they want to speak with her then-husband, Robert Wagner, 87, about the last time anyone ever saw her alive. “As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina says of Wagner told 48 Hours’ Erin Moriarty.
“I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared,” John said. Natalie disappeared on November 29, 1981, after taking out the Splendour, her family’s yacht, on a cruise off the coast of California’s Catalina Island. Captain Dennis Davern, Robert and Natalie’s friend Christopher Walken, 74, were also on the boat. A day after she went missing, she was discovered floating in the water wearing a red down jacket and a flannel nightgown. Her death was ruled an accident following a two week investigation.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department reopened the case in 2011, and the following year, they amended her death certificate to change the manner of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undermined factors.” Investigators in the case note the autopsy report indicates Natalie’s body had a number of bruises that appeared to be fresh at the time of her death.
“I haven’t seen [Robert] tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case,” John Corina told 48 Hours. “I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.” Natalie was famously terrified of dark and deep water, and Robert, Christopher and Captain Davern said she had taken off in a dinghy to go ashore.
“We have not been able to prove this was a homicide. And we haven’t been able to prove that this was an accident, either,” says Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez. “The ultimate problem is we don’t know how she ended up in the water.”
Natalie married Robert in December 28, 1957. They separated in 1961 and finalized the divorce a year later. Yet, the two gave romance a second try in 1972. They were remarried in July of that year. Less than ten years later, Natalie would be dead. “We were all so shattered by the loss, and we were hanging on to each other,” Robert Wagner said in 2016, per ABC News. My bond with [daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner] is very, very intense. We’ve hung onto each other through the years and she means the world to me.”
Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water will broadcast on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 10 PM ET/PT on CBS.
What do you think happened to Natalie, HollywoodLifers?