After a “48 Hours” report on Saturday detailed new clues in the investigation of actress Natalie Wood’s 1981 death, the Los Angeles Sheriffs’ Department followed up Monday morning with a press conference explaining the current status of the case. “We’re closer to understanding what happened,” said LAPD Homicide Detective John Corina, although no charges are being filed as yet.
Wood drowned off the coast of Catalina island on Nov. 28, 1981 while on a boat with her husband Robert Wagner, actor Christopher Walken and captain Dennis Davern. Wood and Walken were in the middle of filming the feature “Brainstorm” at the time, while Wagner was appearing on TV on “Hart to Hart.”
Corina said that what Wagner told authorities at the time “doesn’t really add up.” He said that while Wagner was questioned at the time of her death, he has not agreed to talk during the course of any further investigations after “two or three” requests.
“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.”
However Corina emphasized that it remains an accidental death investigation, not a murder investigation. “We’re not pressing charges on anyone,” he said.
New witnesses, who were on a different boat, have come forth since the initial investigation who corroborate other witnesses’ accounts of hearing people on the boat arguing, Corina said.
Davern has said that he went to check on the noise being made by the arguing couple and “was told to go away by Robert Wagner,” Corina recalled. Davern told investigators that Wagner looked angry and he feared for his own safety.
“There were bruises on Natalie Wood’s body,” Corina said. “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.
Corina explained that the story that was told at the time — that Wood decided to go into town on her own, in the rain, late at night in her nightgown and socks, “does not add up,” especially since no one heard the dinghy start up. He said the key to deciding if it becomes a murder investigation is finding out how Wood got in the water — did she fall accidentally or was she put in the water.
The dinghy washed up on Catalina island, about a mile from where the boat was moored, and her body was found nearby.
The LAPD has received numerous calls since “48 Hours” aired, Corina said. “Time is our enemy. We’re reaching out one last time.”
The new information has “made us more suspicious of what happened that weekend,” he said.