36 Years After Natalie Wood’s Drowning, Robert Wagner Has Been Named A Person Of Interest In Her Death
If watching hundreds of episodes of 48 Hours, Dateline NBC, Unsolved Mysteries and Forensic Files taught me anything, it’s that the husband ALWAYS did it and that the victim is always a wonderful, caring person who “lit up” any room they walked into. (If my death ever ends up on 48 Hours, my friends and family will probably keep it real by saying I was a bitchy and bitter person who brought a black cloud with me into every room I walked into.) I’ve also learned that sometimes it takes a younger, hungrier detective with “fresh eyes” to move an old case forward. Now, I don’t know if a younger, hungrier detective with “fresh eyes” was brought on to look at the Natalie Wood case, but there’s been a little movement. CBS has learned that Robert Wagner has been named a person of interest.
Over five years ago, we learned that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the case into Natalie Wood’s death. Natalie Wood’s death was originaly ruled an accident, but many have looked at the case with suspicious eyes. Her cause of death was changed to “drowning and other undetermined factors” in 2012.
In November 1981, Natalie Wood’s body was found floating in the water after she had gone missing from a yacht off the coast of Catalina Island. She was 43 at the time. Natalie was found in a down jacket and flannel pajamas, and the story we’ve all been told is that she was drunk and probably fell into the water while trying to secure a dinghy boat that was knocking against the hull.
On February 3, CBS will air a 48 Hours special about the mystery of Natalie Wood’s death. 48 Hours spoke to investigators who say that Natalie’s husband at the time, Robert Wagner, is a person of interest. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina told 48 Hours’ Erin Moriarty that Robert Wagner’s story changed several times and believes he’s keeping something from the police:
“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now. I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.
I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case. I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.”
Christopher Walken, who was on the boat that night, and the yacht’s captain, Dennis Davner, also changed their stories. They first said that they assumed Natalie took off in a dinghy boat in the middle of the night to go to shore. Natalie’s sister, Lana Wood, has always farted on that story, because Natalie was terrified of drowning and wouldn’t even get near a swimming pool.
In a 2009 book co-written by Captain Davern, he claimed that he heard Robert and Natalie fighting loudly in their cabin, and believes it could’ve gotten violent. They were supposedly drunk and high on booze and ludes, and Robert was yelling at Natalie for talking closely to Christopher Walken. Robert believed that something was going on between Christopher andNatalie. Captain Davern wrote that he heard Robert scream, “Get off my fucking boat.” 15 minutes later, Captain Davern was told by Robert that Natalie was missing. Captain Davern wanted to call the coast guard, but Robert allegedly told him not to. A witness named Marilyn Wayne, who was on a nearby boat, has said she heard a woman screaming about drowning for 15 minutes straight. Marilyn also claimed she heard a man telling the women they were getting help.
Captain Davern admitted to lying to the police that night, and said he now thinks Robert had something to do with Natalie’s death.
Robert wrote in his 2008 memoirs that he doesn’t exactly know what happened to Natalie. He said that he and Christopher were fighting about her career, and he ended up smashing a bottle onto a table. Robert thinks Natalie either fell into the water while trying to run away from the argument, or fell into the water while trying to secure the dinghy to the hull because it kept knocking against the boat.
Coroner officials added the change to Natalie’s death certificate in 2012 after looking at her autopsy report. They also added a 10-page addendum to her autopsy report, stating that the bruises on her body may have occurred before she went into the water. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez told 48 Hours that she “looked like a victim of an assault.”
Christopher Walken, who is 74 now, has talked to investigators, but Robert Wagner, who is 87 now, has kept his lips shut to the authorities ever since the case was reopened. Christopher has said that he was asleep in his cabin at the time Natalie went missing. To put things into perspective, here’s a video of the yacht. I always thought it was a grand ass yacht.
This is one of those cases that seems to pop up every now and again, and just when we start to think we’re going to see TMZ footage of Robert Wagner being put into handcuffs for Natalie’s death, nothing ever happens. Who knows if something will happen this time, but I do know 2 things: 1. I really want Dateline NBC to do their own investigation, because my ears really need to hear Keith Morrison’s narration of it. And 2. Ryan Murphy is having an exact replica of Natalie Wood’s nightgown made for his muse Sarah Paulson to wear in American Crime Story: Natalie Wood Natalie Wood Natalie Wood Natalie Woood (click to 2:00 mark in that video if you have no idea what I’m referencing).