It’s been 35 years since Natalie Wood drowned while sailing with her husband, Robert Wagner. Her death remains one of Hollywood’s greatest mysteries, and the case, reopened in 2011, is still unsolved.
The anniversary of Natalie’s death at age 43 will fall on November 29, ABC News reported. The actress died in 1981 while sailing on her and Wagner’s yacht, Splendour, off Catalina Island. Wood’s co-star in the movie Brainstorm, Christopher Walken, and the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern, were also on board.
People provided an update on the progress of the investigation into Natalie’s death. The Los Angeles County Sheriff, Lt. John Corina, provided few details but told the magazine that the police will “continue to look into it and we will continue to look into it until we can come to some conclusion.”
In 2008, Wagner wrote in his memoir that he’d been drinking that night, became jealous, and argued with both Natalie and Walken. The fight was apparently with Walken in particular and the subject was Wood’s career.
“I picked up a wine bottle, slammed it on the table and broke it into pieces.”
Wood was alone after this point. Robert said that he was unable to find his wife later that night, so he and the captain searched the boat. They noticed that the dinghy was missing, and the actor just assumed his wife had gone ashore, CNN reported.
Sadly, she hadn’t. The dinghy was located a mile from the yacht. A mile from the dinghy, Wood’s drowned body was found.
In his memoir, Wagner could only speculate as to what happened to Natalie that night.
“Nobody knows. There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened. Did I blame myself? If I had been there, I could have done something. But I wasn’t there. I didn’t see her. The door was closed; I thought she was belowdecks. I didn’t hear anything. But ultimately, a man is responsible for his loved one, and she was my loved one.”
The case was reopened in 2011 when the captain told police that he’d lied about certain details related to Wood’s drowning. It’s not clear what those details are, but the sheriff’s department said Robert was not considered a suspect as a result.
Detectives went to Hawaii to take another look at the Splendour, but if they came away with anything, Lt. Corina didn’t divulge details because of the ongoing investigation. Only a couple months later, an official revealed that no new evidence was uncovered that changed the original findings.
The sheriff department’s chief of detectives, William McSweeney, said nothing had been discovered to change the ruling of Natalie’s death being accidental.
But in 2013, the story changed. The Los Angeles County Coroner found bruises on Wood’s body. According to ABC News, the coroner described these bruises as “fresh and could have occurred before she entered the water.”
Wood’s cause of death was amended to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” And this year, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said the case is still undetermined and will remain so “unless additional evidence is brought forward.”
Wagner supports the new investigation into Natalie’s death, which he has called a tragic accident.
The actor, now 86, said he remembers that everyone who loved Wood was “so shattered by the loss, and we were hanging on to each other.”
Over the years, he’s become close with his stepdaughter and Natalie’s daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, who was 11 when her mom died. Natasha, who is now older than her mother ever was at 45, reminds him of Wood.
“Sometimes I see the way she moves or the way she walks or laughs and she just reminds me of Natalie. It’s not a continuous thing, just a moment, a turn, her hair, some kind of look. It’s quite extraordinary.”
[Photo by William Lovelace/Getty Images]