Investigators who last week told CBS News that actor Robert Wagner is a “person of interest” in the death of actress Natalie Wood, have now confirmed his story just doesn’t “add up.”
Wood drowned in November 1981 after going overboard while on her family’s yacht near Catalina Island, California. Her then-husband, Wagner, actor Christopher Walken and Capt. Dennis Davern also were on board. She was 43.
“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now,” Lt. John Corina told CBS last week of Wagner. “I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”
After a “48 Hours” report on Saturday detailed some of the new clues in the case, the Los Angeles Sheriffs’ Department followed up Monday morning with a press conference explaining the investigation’s current status “We’re closer to understanding what happened,” said LAPD Homicide Detective John Corina, although no charges are being filed as yet.
“We’d love to hear his side of his version of events,” said Corina. “He’s always been a person of interest because he was the last one with her.”
Corina added that Wagner is not legally required to speak with officials.
He said the information shared by Wagner regarding the events of that evening “doesn’t really add up.”
In 2012, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office changed the cause of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” Investigators later cited the presence of bruises on Wood’s body as the reason for the change.
“There were bruises on Natalie Wood’s body,” Corina said in Monday’s conference. “They were probably caused by another person. I can’t say who caused the injuries.” An autopsy showed that Wood had a high alcohol level as well as prescription drugs in her system.
Homicide Detectives Delve Into 36-Year-Old Mystery of Actress’ DeathIt was Sunday, November 29, 1981, when actress Natalie Wood Wagner drowned off the isthmus of Catalina Island. The circumstances surrounding her death were investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, and determined to be an accident. Since then, Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau detectives received additional information regarding the investigation, and because of this, prudence led them to take another look at the case. Lead investigator, Lieutenant John Corina, announced the case’s reopening on Thursday, November 17, 2011, and interest in any developments heightened.Because of recent media interest, Lieutenant Corina addressed media in a second press conference on Monday, February 5, 2018, and offered some insight into developments since the case’s reopening. Since the 2011 press conference, Lieutenant Corina cited, “well over a hundred people came forward with information about this case. People really wanted to get involved and tell us what they knew.” He continued to say the press conference was extremely helpful in spurning people and witnesses with information who hadn’t come forward before to tell their story. “People don’t think their information or what they know might be important. Well, it was in this case. It’s helped us recreate some of the timeline in what happened on that weekend, right up to the point where Natalie Wood ends up going into the water.”Lieutenant Corina relayed that new witnesses who were on Catalina Island, moored near the Wagners’ boat the night and weekend of Natalie Wood’s death, and those who knew the couple and had knowledge of the couple’s behavior that weekend were interviewed. Their coming forward helped detectives establish a more articulate timeline of circumstances surrounding the critically-acclaimed actress’ death, determining Robert Wagner was the last person with her, arguing, before everything “went quiet.”There were four people on the boat the night of Ms. Wood’s death, including her husband, actor Robert Wagner. “He was always considered a person of interest,” said the lieutenant, who recalled the statement from a witness on the boat of hearing an argument so intense, he became worried a possible assault was occurring and went down to the Wagners’ cabin to check on them. The witness was told to go away by Robert Wagner, after which the couple continued arguing on the back of the boat and then there was silence. Witnesses moored on another boat nearby corroborated this information.Based upon the detectives’ investigation, evidence and witness statements, the belief there was a loud argument in which a witness reported Robert Wagner’s angry demeanor, combined with the sound of fighting so intense it caused enough worry for the witness to check on them didn’t add up. Moreover, the reasons statements from Robert Wagner were incongruent with other findings, and Natalie Wood leaving the boat alone, on a dinghy with which she was unfamiliar in operating, around midnight during a rainstorm, wearing only a nightgown and socks, were unclear. Detectives believe they have a better understanding of what occurred since renewing the investigation and interviewing additional witnesses.Bruises located on Natalie Wood’s body, as reported by Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner personnel, which were “non-mechanical” were likely caused by another, yet undetermined person.The investigation, Lieutenant Corina explained, is a suspicious death investigation, not a murder investigation. The detectives are trying to determine what happened; from the time of the argument to how, exactly, Natalie Wood got into the water.“Yes, of course we want to talk to Robert Wagner, you bet. We would love to hear his version of events. The version of events he portrayed in the media…what he told the original investigators and what he’s portrayed since then, really don’t add up to what we found.”As long as there are tips and leads to follow, detectives will pursue investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Natalie Wood. If you have information about this case, please contact Lieutenant John Corina or Homicide Bureau investigators at 323-890-5500. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may call “L.A. Crime Stoppers” at 800-222-TIPS (8477), use your smartphone by downloading the “P3 MOBILE APP” on Google play or the App Store, or use the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.Advertisement
Posted by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Monday, February 5, 2018